Mixing Grunge for the 21st Centure

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by steppingonmars, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. steppingonmars

    steppingonmars Active Member

    Ok so here's a band I recorded. Let me know what you think, is it radio ready? Have I gone too far with the loudness wars? Will I get women recording this way? Any input is appreciated.

  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm really not the guy to listen to, and I can't say whether or not it'll help you get girls, but I'll throw some suggestions out there that you can take with a grain of salt.

    I'm missing the kick. Snare's good, toms are present (although a little too dead for my personal tastes) but the kick is getting lost. It's missing that bottom end with the tight click on top to bring it forward.

    Did you mix the kick within the entire mix, or in solo mode? I'll wait for your answer before I explain why I asked.

    The bass guitar is also muddy and undefined. You may try adding some upper mids to bring out the definition, maybe somewhere around 800hz to 3 k.

    How is your mixing environment room-wise? My bet is that you've got serious low end / standing wave issues, that are causing a substantial amount of untamed low frequencies your room...and because you are hearing so much low end in your room's inherent acoustics, you're either not adding enough, or, you are attenuating the low end when you shouldn't, because your ears are leading you to believe that you already have plenty of low end. In short, your room may be lying to you.

    Guitars sound par for the genre... edgy, rough.

    The vocals are, I think, quite bad... very pitchy. They sound "amateurish" to me, like it was the first time the "singer" was ever on a mic. That may not be the case, but that's what it sounds like to these ears..

    Just because it's "grunge" doesn't mean that the singer has to suck - or can get away with sucking. Grunge vocalists like Cobain and Staley were certainly "rough around the edges", but they weren't off-pitch.
    Raspy? Yeah. Edgy? Absolutely. Pitchy? Not in the least. They hit the notes.

    From a mix POV, the lead vocals are getting buried during the choruses. They're okay during verses, when the instrumentation is more sparse and open, but when everything kicks in full tilt, they are getting lost.

    Have you referenced your own mixes with other grunge songs that you like? It helps to listen to other tracks that are in the same style you are mixing, as a form of reference. Listen for things like kick and bass guitar levels and EQ, how forward or back the drum bus is, where the vocals sit, panning of guitars, etc.

    Now... here's the big disclaimer: With the exception of Nirvana and Alice In Chains, I'm not much of a grunge fan... which means you have to take everything I said above with a huge grain of salt.

    The vocal levels, the pitch, kick level, bass EQ, might all be considered to be fine by true grunge purists... I'm only going by successful grunge bands and how their mixes sound, so you should definitely wait to make any changes until someone else who is more familiar with the style chimes in, because the things I mentioned may be just fine.

    In My - extremely uneducated and inexperienced - Opinion, of course. ;)

  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Your stuff is so bottom heavy, it sounds like you mixed this on headphones? Sounds great in the phone's I bet. Just not on speakers. You know... those things in your car. Obviously not in your control room.

    Your recording technique is just this shy of a dirty butt. Certainly grunge on equals grunge out. So... do you want to make a good recording or don't ya? You do? Okay then...

    We all use a lot of high pass filtering. Sometimes it's a button on your mixer. Sometimes it's a software preset. Either way, you're not using any. It's necessary. Grunge only sounds like grunge when it doesn't sound like mud. Yours is mud. So it's not grunge, it's amateur hour.

    Now I don't think your snare drum sounded good. Donny was just being nice. Your entire drum set sounds like crap. It's obvious you've used too much gobbledygook. Too much EQ when just a little high pass filtering might do. You obviously have no recording techniques or chops. If you did go to school for this? You must've flunked?

    So if you want really hard-hitting bass drum? Invert the phase on only the bass drum. Suck out a little around 250-300 Hz. Maybe a 2 db rise around 3 kHz? And ya cut the low end off around 60 Hz. Maybe even sticking a bit of compression and gating on the bass drum. Almost the same for the snare drum. Don't screw with the overheads except for high pass filtering and maybe a two db rise around 10 kHz/12 kHz? And gate your toms. So those microphones aren't on when those drums are not being played. This will tighten up the entire kit. It'll feel like somebody's giving you CPR. It'll be much harder hitting.

    Same for the bass guitar. Some high pass filtering and a little limiting. And that's all ya need on the bass guitar. You don't need tons of gobbledygook equalization just because it's there.

    The guitars... oh the guitars... mud city. That's not grunge that's crap. They have no bite. They have no bark. They have mud. Yuck. So what to do? Simple. High pass filtering, low-frequency cutting. Stick one guitar track in the left channel with a slight time delay of that in the right channel for the Haas effect. Do the same to the guitar in the right channel with the delay into the left channel. And copious amounts of high pass filtering. And they might jump out at ya? Yeah doggie! That's rock 'n roll grunge.

    So now that I've rreamed you a good new ass hole. What are ya going to do for an encore?

    Donny asked ya whether you have referenced your mix, your sound, against any major brand grunge act recordings? Apparently not? Because there's no way you can tell me you've already done that by listening to your cut. It might however only on headphones? Which is why I think you mixed this on headphones. Unless your monitors that you might be using are screaming bright? Like Yamaha NS 10's. Which I personally cannot work upon. They suck! But there are lots of folks that use them as their primary references. A colleague of mine, Bob Clearmountain does. But not without his favorite brand of toilet paper over the tweeters, for just that reason. So try some toilet paper, if you're using extremely bright speakers. Because it's just not cutting the mustard.

    For a good reference, stuff by Chris Lord Algae, is what you want your stuff to sound like. But that's an SSL 9000. Complete with compression, limiting and noise gating, on every freakin' channel. And that's what I'm talkin' bout.

    I have a set of reference CDs I use, before I go into any mixing. References by notable groups, their producers and engineers. Which includes work of my own as well. Along with Bob Clearmountain, George Massenburg, Bruce Swedein. Some of my favorite engineers. And which I engineer nothing like them but with my own signature sound. Still quality. Still nominated for 4 major music award nominations. Which means it doesn't sound like your stuff LOL.

    Johnny asked you if you had soloed instruments, tweaking them that way? Then placing them into the mix that way? Which ain't the way to do it. And maybe that's why you're getting what you're getting? Since what you're really supposed to do is to flatten and turn off all your equalizers. Then you push up a mix. You balance the mix. You get it just right, that way alone. Then you can start using some program EQ enhancements and/or corrections. But not until then.

    The vocal... need I say more? Yes... I need to say more. While the vocalist (perhaps yourself?) is there, it ain't there. Again it requires copious amounts of low frequency roll off and high pass filtering. And plenty of compression. Which does not require a fast attack time and does not require a superfast release time with a 4:1 ratio setting. It doesn't matter whether it's hard knee or soft knee via RMS, peak or optical sensing. But it needs to be there to place the vocal in a part of the mix, where it will always be plainly heard and understood, regardless of background music levels. Which is what the dynamics processing does for ya on the vocal. Then and only then, will your mix start to stack up those of other professionals.

    It's easy once you get the hang of it. You're not there yet.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Although I don't like this music at all, rarely listen to grunge but I do have my favourites.
    I've heard your other stuff and know your work ( what was that song a few years back, I really liked it?). Where have you been? :) (hopefully not too wet these days?) My heart goes out to the Prairies.

    I actually don't mind this because it reminds me of 54-40, a Canadian Band that became famous sounding like they don't give a ^#$%, but, they still keep in tune. You got yourself another 54-40 in the making!

    I would turn the vocals up and adjust the sides of the guitar better. They are out of balance with the middle.

    I don't hear it as being mixed bass heavy at all, Remy. This sounds like it supposed to (y)

    I would have attempted to tune the band better, but you can still fix the balance between the Vox and guitars. Tuning, well that would just ruin this lol now! How could you ever fix it in the mix.

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMZSSVt355I

    View: http://youtu.be/lkh4qdxLFH0
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    '...Your stuff is so bottom heavy..."

    Wow. Well, that's certainly not what I'm hearing. Undefined, yes. But not bottom heavy at all. If anything, I'd tighten up the definition and add more low end.

    FWIW I referenced through NS10's, JBL 4406's and Alesis Monitor Ones. Powered by Hafler and Crown. All three played back low end shy.
    bigtree likes this.
  6. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    I am hearing bottom heavy on speakers, very muddy, but not so much on headphones. Was this mixed on headphones ? :)
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    What monitors/amp are you using? Are you listening in a controlled/treated environment?

    Because in my control room, ( acoustically treated) through three different pairs of speakers - NS10's, JBL 4406's and Alesis Monitor One's, and two separate amps (Hafler and Crown) the low end is shy.

    Now, I will say that the low end is lacking definition and clarity, and it's very "loose" sounding, not "tight" and defined like you'd hear in a pro recording, but frequency-wise on the whole, it's anything but bass heavy.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Interesting because I find all Remy's mix weak
    Here is where this gets interesting.
    Are the differences we hear because of monitoring or taste?
    Is there some correlation between members or is it coincidence?

    Voiceofallanger, although I like your work a lot, I have always noticed your mixes shy in the bass (low punch) and bright on the top. Remy's mix's going back to the 70's, sound overly compressed and shy on the bass, lacking kick and low freq below 100hz. I never agree with Remy on anything sound related. Both of you tend to like each other's comments.

    Donny's mixes however, usually sound closer to how I would finish them but lack some kick which is definitely personal taste between him and I. BUT! I can differentiate taste and therefore never worry when he suggests something for me. We can work together.

    We all have our sound and I am the first to admit, I am far from perfect, but it is my sound and it has kept me busy all my life. Who has it right then? I'm reading wide personal differences between us here but see something unfolding, that i want to keep focusing on with RO. We are onto something.

    That being said, I would trust a critique from Donny so this is where it gets interesting.

    Some say this is very muddy. Not to me. "Very" is extreme and leads to savage moves.
    From a finishing/mastering POV here is how I hear this mix.

    The OP sounds shy on the bass (lacks punch) and is rather smeared, lacking top end I suppose. I would definitely not remove bass though. Perhaps we mean the same thing? Is it very muddy or top end shy? There is a big difference. I would add top end instead. I wouldn't remove bottom end anywhere.

    It does sound close to a 21st century "Grunge" band to me = the sound of the 90's west coast bar band all ^#$% ed up on drugs and slightly better ADDA conversion.. I would mix this again (ckecking) in mono so the sides are balanced better with the center and try to get more edgy attitude which is anyone guess. Maybe sample the sound of a bar and add it into the mix.

    thats my 2 cents.
  9. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    Interesting comments audiokid. A good read for sure :)! I donno... the room I am listening in isn't treated.. But yes maybe I should specify. There IS frequency present but it isn't very defined. I should have been a bit more specific with my comment really but I am noticing a huge difference in mix between speakers and headphones which is just .. VERY EXCITING haha :D Mixing bass is definitely a weakness for me. I'll say that much!
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    There ya go.
    I bet Remy's isn't either because there is never any information below 100 hz in her mixes. She, likes thinner music. Most professionals in this business, including myself learn to mix a certain way and we get results. The hardest part for me has always been the top and bottom. I think over time we tend to follow what works and this becomes our sound through habits.
    Some think its the mids that are hard, to me, mids are the easiest. Its the bottom and top I struggle with, always have. I can't get good mids without the support of the top and bottom.So, I love the Avatones for dialing in the mids then full range for the sub and top finish. Easier said than done. :rolleyes:

    My mixing position is within 2 db from 40 to 500hz. I can hear ( or feel) down to 40hz easy and know when its swinging or killing it. Bass is a obsession for me so I struggle all the time trying to get it big. The hardest job I have, fixing whats not mine and then trying to forget what I just did on the last one.. The last hours of a mix is where I suffer defeat. I keep thinking I will find a way and it pains me. I'm almost at a point in life where I can't take it anymore. Some days I wish I didn't choose sound. This business has taken away the magic enjoyment, the innocence of just listening to music and being content.

    I've always felt strongly, bass with punch its where the money lives in this business, and what defines an age group. Mature people like more defined. Younger people generally go overboard. Somewhere around 35 years old I think we all start finding our niche. Then, our hearing starting diminishing and we rely on habit.

    Generally speaking: I've noticed some engineers, especially those who do Metal produce thin mixes. Drummers tend to add too much high end. Guitarists get too wide. Bass, players, I'm still trying to figure them out but I like a mix that is based around the bass.

    It's a bitch to be good at all styles. The world class engineers do well because they have the best to play with. So, when someone says, just do this, it ain't that simple because most of us are doing something wrong somewhere.

    You aren't the only one admitting bass is a weakness. Me too.
    I'm trying to get rid of old habits created by bad room acoustics, poor gear, techniques, hearing loss and so on. But thats why we do eh. Its a challenge indeed.

    Edit (It sounds like its been updated from the original op, the vox sounds louder now? )
  11. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Before I comment I'd like to know if this was actually a bit of a piss take -- as in were you guys trying to as a one-off project record a grunge song for laughs? Because what I feel here is a lack of authenticity in the performance and the production and most of the problems beyond the obvious technical and sonic ones may have their roots right there. Is this your music style? Is this your passion? What is this song and recording to you?
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    AWWW C-RAP! i was hoping i would hate this after reading everyone else's posts but actually kinda like it.

    as far as the mix goes, anything i would say would be subjective. i can hear all the parts and that's the most important thing.

    as far as performance goes i get the impression it is done the way the band intended it to sound ..... :rolleyes: no accounting for taste.
    i give it a strong 7 Dick. it's got a good beat and it's easy to dance to. think i'll go surfing now!
    steppingonmars and bigtree like this.
  13. CrazyLuke

    CrazyLuke Active Member

    I like the creepy, spooky aspect of this song. what I'm hearing is less "grunge", and more goth (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets). I would keep the vox tracks expressive, and just do slight pitch corrections via software. Most of what the above posters say re: your poor frequency boosts and cuts I agree with. What I need to here is more hi-hat, ride, and kick. Also, try to come up with bass parts that don't just mimic the guitars - try making then stick out once in a while with a couple of notes that play a pattern different then what the rhythm guitars are playing (ala, Green Day), so people might say "hey, there's a bass player there!"
    DonnyAir likes this.
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Abso-frickin'-lutely agreed. I've been saying this for years. So many times I hear the bass track as nothing more than just notes rhythmically and melodically following the tonic root of the guitar chords - but just an octave down. Definition is frequency-dependent to be sure, but it's also part-dependent as well. If the bass has an actual part, it's much easier to distinguish in the mix.

    Tracks by bass players like McCartney, Leland Sklar, Tony Levin, etc., stand out because they have a distinguishable arrangement... counter-rhythmic and counter-melodic, and not just a lower octave clone of the guitar root.

  15. Voiceofallanger

    Voiceofallanger Active Member

    To be fair. Part of the foundation of grunge is the solid octave of guitars and bass matching. I think it's almost a signature characteristic. Grunge is meant to sound quite sludgy and none melodic for the most part. Look at Queens of the stone age for references IMO.
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

  17. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    holy noise floor batman! what the hell is shooshing so bad? Gate that $*^t.

    otherwise, sounds like grungy guys to me. maybe the guitars should be "bigger", and the vocals def dont cut through all that noisy guitars.

    I think your bass guitar is hogging your subs and taking away from the kick drum impact. maybe you are mixing to sound that way, but as preferences go, I like a thumping kick, not a clicking one and I think "this song" with the chugging guitar groove would benefit from less bass guitar low end, and have the kick drum do the "beating" so the groove is... well groovier ;)
    start with HPF'ing the bass guitar at at least 180 Hz. with a resonant boost at 220-280. That will make you better able to hear the bass guitar (and appease the bassist) and not take the thump out of the kick drum. i can hear what you are attempting, but I cant feel it.. yet.

    Your vocals aen't cutting through, the singer is singing at a tone that is conflicting with somethign... prolly guitar. try carving a bit of the fundamental of one out of the other see whee that takes you. and i can hear this weird undertone in the singers voice mid range somewhere, kinda crusty.. find it and accentuate it.
  18. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Tell that to Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.... even Nirvana.... There were grunge elements coming from the post punk world where plodding roots on the bass were the form... but those guys barely sold any records and they certainly didn't define "grunge". Grunge was better defined by the lack of hairspray and Jeans & Flannel vs Spandex and crop tops than any signature sound.
  19. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    agree with ^^^ those bands all sound nothing alike, they just came from the same area.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This post was strange to me, Josh. o_O Usually you and I see eye to eye on, well, almost everything. But in this case I have to disagree. I wouldn't be putting an HPF on the bass. I think it needs more low end, not less.

    Then again - I said it to start out with and I'll say it again - this ain't my thang style-wise. So maybe I'm just altogether wrong and am basing my opinions on what I personally like to hear in a mix.



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