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Mix Issues

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Starfields76, Jan 18, 2004.

  1. Starfields76

    Starfields76 Guest


    No joke, it's been like over two year since I posted on here but I was hoping to get some input on a recurring issue I've been having with my mixes. Seperation.

    Most of my work is indie rock stuff. I use Pro Tools and I work really hard at getting really good sounds when I track my instruments. I mostly use the Dan Alexander Neve Preamps which I absolutely love the sound of and a handful of other various okay sounding preamps (Joemeek, Presonus, etc.). I always love the way things sound going down but when I get to my mixing I can never get that seperation that I want. Like, I want to be able to hear everything and have everything have it's place in the mix. Like you hear the drums clearly and loudly but the guitars still kick ass in the mix and don't get in their way. I hope this is making sense to you guys.

    Any advice? Is it EQ? Am I just a suck engineer stuck in a profession that has lied to me for the past eigth years? (Just kidding). I love my work and I just want to start taking it up a notch with my mixes. Any help would be awesome - thanks!

  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Distinguished Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    Silicon Valley
    Most of the stuff I hear from users of poorfools has many mix issues. For seperation, eq is big part and most of it. But it is likely that part of your problem is that just because your tracks sound great by themselves is one thing but a much different thing is having great sounding tracks that also sound great when mixed together. Knowing how to choose gear and use it to blend in advance of mixing durring tracking is also a skill to be learned and mastered in addition to just mixing. 8-years is barely paying your dues in recording and mixing assuming they were 8-years of good experience and not just 8-years of hobby part time wanking. Not everyone is up to the task or will ever get good at it no matter how many years they put in, or how much gear they buy or use, or how easy and automated the hardware and software becomes.

    You might want to try mixing with the least amount of tracks as you can get away with using nothing but simple eq and see if that helps. If and when you master that, then add the missing parts and/or play with dynamics and effects to try to take it to the next level.
  3. Screws

    Screws Active Member

    Feb 16, 2001
    Home Page:
    I'm a home studio wanker, as AG put it. I just finished a project for a 5 song EP with a Punk/Alt rock band.

    I did all the tracking myself and the tracks came out great. But at mix time I quickly realized that I didn't have the experience necessary to get all the elements up front at the same time. In essence, they wanted the guitars, drums and vocals in your face while still hearing the bass clearly.

    I had a pro mixer come in and mix it. He's a great friend and agreed to do it on spec, as the EP is going to be paid for by a record company the band is negotiating with.

    Man, did I learn a TON from watching and listening to his work on my equipment! I highly recommend this method of educating yourself.
  4. bgavin

    bgavin Guest

    Check with a recording-industry attorney first!

    Make sure you aren't giving away the rights to your material by having the studio fund the EP on speculation. My daughter's band is in LA the end of January for the final work on their EP, but we are paying the studio time to retain the rights.
  5. levihoward

    levihoward Guest

    As a "hack" mixer and someone who realizes that I'd NEVER want to be a mix engineer, I'd DEFINITELY look for someone to come in to mix for you. Other than that, I'd take a bit of the "reckless" approach. Throw up the faders, get a vibe based on levels only. Then, if the low-mids are muddy to your ear, begin to scope for the offender. Snare not grabbing you, mess with some compression, etc. Back down EQ before adding to others to make up the difference (I'm sure you and everyone else already knew that!!!!). I TOTALLY agree that things solo'd up may sound wonderful on their own, but you're not going for 4 or 5 mixes within the song, you're going for one great colaboration! Especially since you're working the rock thing, I'd give this approach a try and see if it works. Everyone has their way, and I've seen this approach work very successfully on more than one occasion.
  6. Starfields76

    Starfields76 Guest

    Thanks AG,

    I've paid my dues and I've worked for hard-asses like you so I'm not a 'home studio wanker' as you put it.

    If anyone else could help me out with an actual answer to my question that would be great. I know how to mix and how to track, I'm just looking for little things that could help improve my game a little.

    One thing that I have noticed is that when I was working on real desks with tape or RADAR in the past, I didn't have the kinds of seperation problems I'm running into now. Is this a common ProTools issue?

    Thanks again,
  7. levihoward

    levihoward Guest

    Which PT converters are you using, and what version of the program?
  8. David French

    David French Distinguished Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    You should post an example of your work. That way we could hear the problems and comment on them specifically. Good luck. :c:
  9. Starfields76

    Starfields76 Guest

    Thanks Levihoward,

    I'm with you on all of what you said. I've worked with outside mixers and I've had great results. I also never want to be 'a mix engineer' exclusively. I just want to get better at it.

  10. Starfields76

    Starfields76 Guest

    Most of my projects I do the drums at another studio through 888/24's and then my home studio is just an LE system with an Apogee Rosetta for overdubs. My home studio is just temporary as I'm moving into a bigger commercial facility this spring.
  11. levihoward

    levihoward Guest

    I CAN tell you this.....

    I had some of the PT stuff back in the 90's (oh so ancient ago!) and then moved over to the MOTU stuff due to programming so much and the MAS format, blah, blah, blah..... Then about 2 years ago made the change to RME converters and heard an immediate, ridiculously wonderful difference in the stereo image, sheen and tightness in the low end, etc. I know it's all subjective, but I've heard a lot of just so-so stuff on the PT converters. I know a lot of guys that run RADAR converters on their PT front ends for this very reason.
  12. Chance

    Chance Guest

    Sometimes when a mix gets stale, and I find myself in your situation, I will mix with all the pan pots centered. I try to get the best mix where I can hear everything clearly. THEN I will give every track its' own piece of real estate.
    I discovered that mixing in mono, if there is a phaseing problem, you will know it
  13. levihoward

    levihoward Guest

    I second Chance's insight. I'm always back and forth from mono to stereo. Really shows phasing, too much/ too little eq, etc. Kind of like listening to a mix very quietly- if it sounds good that way, it'll definitely kick when it's loud! :D
  14. closer

    closer Guest

    post some samples.. i want to hear some indie rock baby!
    also, what rme/hammerfall stuff are you speaking of?
  15. levihoward

    levihoward Guest

    Personally, I purchased the Multiface for my Powerbook setup for my production away from home. Was thrilled enough that I immediately purchased the PCI card and use it at home as well now. Very happy with it and plan to move up into some of their "higher end" converters soon. Everyone I know using them swears by them.
  16. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    OF, I totally agree with Chance about checking things in mono. Also, whenever I start having imaging problems, it's usually because of reverb or effects return panning, as well as the low end nature of reverb muddying things up. Can you/do you EQ your verb? Try mixing things totally dry to start, and add reverb a track at a time from there. I have to include a quote from an intervue with Hugh Padgam (Sting mix engineer); Q: What makes a great mix? A: A great arrangement.
  17. Jonas André

    Jonas André Guest

    Many good things said here! One possible problem with mixes is the lack of definition even though each track sound great by themselves. One thing that could be a problem is the overuse of EQ that many of us is guilty of. We always try to find the right sound firstly by tweaking the EQs. EQs will always introduce phase-issues, and then when you add the tracks together the mix just tend to mud up. So it is a good thing to listen i mono, so that if there is some instrument that dissapears in the mix it will most likely be a phase-issue somewhere. Or perhaps get a phase-meter?

    My suggestion is to use as little EQ's as possible and try to find the right sound allready in the recording phase with mic-positioning and choosing the right mic. It will make the mix clearer if done wisely. (Separate discussion) Also consider the mic characteristics such as omni (no phase problems off-axis), cardioid, eight and so on... The concept is to get it to sound as great as possible directly to tape (or HD) and then just "caress" the EQs in a subtle manner to heighten the sound. If at all! :D
  18. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    First let me clarify, I am not a mix engineer, although I did that part of the process for a number of years.

    I am a mastering engineer and I can tell you from painful experience that you need to get the best set of speakers you can afford and get a place to mix that is not full of acoustical problems.

    We daily get mixes in that are mixed on inferior monitoring equipment and when the client brings it to us to master it has BIG problems. Biggest problems are lack of depth in the mix, overuse of EQ, overuse of processors, panning problems, and having a lot problems with high and low frequencies that are over done or underdone because the speakers that the person used for mixing were inadequate and fell off in level in the bass and the treble. They also have rooms that are not correctly setup and so you get people putting holes or mountains in the frequency response where they have acoustical nightmares in the their rooms.

    To site a recent example.

    Client brings in a project that was done in a commercial "basement studio" meaning the engineer got paid for doing the recording and mixing. The problem with the music was that it was over processed and was out of balance. I went to the studio at the request of the band to talk to the engineer. His two rooms are well done and his control room is very nice EXCEPT that it is about 20 feet long and 6 feet deep. One of his speaker is sitting about 2 feet from his left ear the other speaker is 10 feet away so the band who are sitting on a couch can here what he is doing. He also uses Sony ES equipment designed for the home. Everything sounds good on them. He also has an equalizer on the speakers which has a smiley EQ setting. He put the whole mix though a Behringer all in one do everything box and widened the stereo field plus did his eq'ing using the speaker setup he had. He thought he did a wonderful job with the mix but since he could not accurately hear what he was doing the whole mix sounded too wide and was badly eq'd.

    Good mixing is an art. There are people that can do an excellent mix on AURATONES or NS-10s but they are USE to hearing things on these speakers. My advice is to do the mix in a good room with good speakers and good acoustics with top quality equipment and someone who knows what they are doing sitting in as producer or a second set of ears.

    Hope this helps.

    [ January 28, 2004, 10:55 AM: Message edited by: Thomas W. Bethel ]
  19. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    That guy is neither a professional nor is his studio a commercial studio...unless you take the literal meanings of "professional" & "commercial"; i.e. if you get paid you are "pro" etc.
  20. Marcus Black

    Marcus Black Guest

    My experience is that (as long as everything is decently tracked, which seems to be the case here) separation problems are an arrangement-issue. Often one guitar too much or that one magic overdub that makes the song, or at least you think so in the spur of the moment. That the song is totally dependent on that certain overdub, and when you mute it, by accident, the mix sounds great. My advise 1: Kill your darlings, mute one track at a time to see which instrument eats up the rest. When you find it, mute it, bring it down, pan it out, eq it. Whatever that solves the problem. No overdub is sacred. My advise 2: Make it sound as good as ever possible with only drums, bass, one harmony instrument and vocals. Then blend in the rest. After all the average music-consumer listens to the vocals and sometimes even feels a great swing or groove, and gets a sense of the mood in the song. The rest secondary.

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