Mixing rock songs

Discussion in 'Mixing & Editing' started by TheRealistWord, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. I hope this thread is in the appropriate section. If not, feel free to move it to the right one =)

    Anyway, hey everyone! I'm completely new to these forums, but I'm not completely new to recording (though I still consider myself somewhat of a beginner). I've been recording music for about 3 years now, but nothing serious in anyway whatsoever. Now I'm interested in becoming a bit more serious about it.

    I'm interested in composing and mixing rock-styled music, more leaning towards Fall Out Boy's newer material (songs found on Folie A Deux and Infinity On High). I'm having quite a bit of trouble though analyzing this style and having everything sit in the mix nicely. FOB seems to be able to take multiple guitar parts and pan and EQ them so nicely that they fit in the mix perfectly, to the point where it harmoniously blends and I have trouble distinguishing the different guitar parts! On some songs it's very simple to hear what they've done - On "America's Suitehearts" for example, the rhythm guitar is panned completely to one side, and the lead guitar riff is panned to the complete opposite side, the bass in the center.. a setup like that is easy to distinguish. But some of their other material becomes difficult to analyze...

    I've found that FOB tends to harsh pan one electric guitar part 100% to the left, and another electric guitar part 100% tot he right, and because both sides are completely occupied, it fits together nicely. Another trend I've noticed in their music is that they usually avoid panning a guitar part harshly if it sits alone with no other accompanying guitar parts. The drums, bass guitar, and vocals tend to sit very close to the center, and if panned, only slightly. You can also tell that a noticeable amount of reverb is added to all instruments, including drums.

    The reason I'm studying FOB specifically is because I'm using them as an example of mixing, as a lot of other bands don't seem to catch that clean, settled mix that FOB achieves in some of their songs. If anyone has any other advice pertaining to mixing like FOB, or mixing rock songs in general (eg. where to pan all of the guitars if a riff, rhythm guitar, and bass are all playing simultaneously for a clean mix), or just any other advice about rock composition, please share! I'm trying to start from the basics and build my way up (eg. start with a riff, then add accompanying chords with rhythm guitar, then add the bass part and some drums, then vocals).

    Oh, and one other thing - I'm trying to achieve that heavy/edgy excitement in the chorus you find in many rock songs. I believe that although an electric guitar contributes a great deal to a heavy full chorus, the cymbals also play an incredibly vital role. Anyway, any info is greatly appreciated, thanks a lot! :D
  2. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Step 1: Hire first class session musos.
    Step 2: Spend days in a very pro studio using all kinds of tech and techniques.
    Step 3: Profit.
  3. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Nuremberg, Germany
    Home Page:
    i don't think there is any specific advice anyone could give you, except to keep trying.
    what do you want it to sound like? do you need more than one guitar to achive the effect you want in that particular song (or part of a song)? should the drums play that pattern or maybe change a bit in that part, or maybe play something competely different?

    those are all decisions you have to do for yourself. if you don't like your first idea try something different. small changes might do the trick. sometimes you will have to start from scratch again...

    on the mixing part search the forum. you will find a lot of great advice.

    i haven't heard much by fall out boy, but don't limit yourself to one band. listen to as many different bands and styles you can. the sound of fall out boy might not suit your music.

    hope this makes any sense...
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I think you are being amazingly narrowminded. If we all tried to emulate a single band and/or engineering style, where's the creativity? Using a single one even as an example is like saying one single religion is better than any other. That's bad. No good. Nope. Not ready for prime time.

    Not everything has to do with equipment you have or how it sounds but much of it does. It's all-encompassing. When I talk about sound and/or mixing, recording, etc., I'm talking about the examples of at least 1/2 dozen different bands & producers & engineers & studios. None of which are bottom of the barrel but are of the top shelf types. All of those folks started when there wasn't a plethora of equipment to select from. There wasn't anything even bargain priced worth using. Those folks didn't learn what they learned from catalogs, magazines or online forums. They either had real talent, an in and/or a fabulous education that didn't include any recording school. Especially since none existed. A lot of us here are from that era. Even those that weren't are like minded, like us. And what school did you go to to learn this brilliant skill to use a single example? Really? And you paid what?

    Old-school engineer
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    I've found that not only the sounds I like, but the techniques for getting those sounds, can be uncommon. Good advice in the world of recording is not always good advice unless it applies specifically to the style you are going after. So, just because someone says to do something a certain way to get ____ sound doesn't mean that sound is really what you want (even if you think you want that sound), and they might not even be right about their own advice. So, experiment, experiment, experiment.

    Remy, bringing religion into recording: shame on you. Of course, you just said that Atheism is just as valid as Greek mythology. 8)

    No use for religion: I'm a Christian.
  6. First off, thankyou for all of the replies everyone.

    Remy, I’m not trying to present any hostility or anything of the manner, but I honestly don’t believe I’m being narrow minded as you suggested. If there’s a band I enjoy listening to and I feel the mix settles well and everything is balanced, then I will take an interest to studying how the engineers accomplished that. It causes me to question – “Okay, this blends nicely, I’m curious about how they achieved that.” I’m not trying to completely emulate the mixing style of Fallout Boy, but rather simply use it as a reference to help me learn – otherwise why would I be interested in studying and learning mixing techniques by listening to some of the other music that feels out of balance, where the guitars have a tad too much distortion or the drums are drowned out by the rest of the mix? It’s like saying I want to become a skilled sculptor, and instead of getting instruction and learning techniques from what I consider one of the most masterful sculptors, I’ll instead go and learn from a bunch of other sculptors who can’t even shape a triangle without it looking like lastnight’s dinner (or something, hehe). I chose Fallout Boy because I find that the mixing work that went into most of their later work sounds nice (to my ears at least), and I’m saying this by comparison of listening to dozens of other artists who are in a similar genre. And to clarify things, I’m not looking for a magical formula of sorts, because I know every situation and setup calls for different adjustments, mic positions, what have you. But after listening to multiple songs from an artist, you begin to understand that they have certain mindsets to achieving certain sounds (like many bands layering and panning multiple takes of the same electric guitar riff to help increase the presence and space, albeit a technique I know that isn’t central to Fall out Boy).

    Also, I’m not much for the sarcasm if that’s what you were intending with the last couple of sentences.

    Regardless Remy, I truly do appreciate your response and I do understand where you’re coming from, but I feel it’s a bit of a stretch to call me “amazingly narrow minded” simply because I’d like to study how a band mixes their song, even though I was also asking for help on “mixing rock songs in general” and still studying some of the mixing techniques of other bands of similar genres. Thanks.
  7. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    You are right about panning. The things that are generally not panned (or panned very little) in a rock mix are the: main vox, bass drum, snare drum, and the bass. You don't have to pan guitars 100%, in fact, I usually do the guitar hard L and R (85-95%) and then the guitar not so hard L and R (45-60%). Of course, those are just numbers off the top of my head; what works for me might not work for someone else. There are some mixes where the rhythm guitar is panned hard L and R and the lead guitar is pretty much in the middle. But panning is just part of the big picture. Getting the micing and EQ right is a lot more important, and who knows how that is done on the latest Fall Out Boy record? The quality of the recorded source is a lot more important than panning. So what gear are you using?
  8. Thanks for the advice NCdan! Right now I'm getting pretty good results with my somewhat cheap gear, haha. But still not where I'd like it to be. 8)

    I'm using an M-audio DMP3 as a preamp, running into a Ultragraph Pro 15 band equalizer, then to a DBX 166XL compressor, then my Lexicon Omega audio interface, then my desktop. And then I'm running Guitar Rig 3 for the amp simulator. Seems to work fine right now, but when I get a chance, I'm gonna switch the signal chain up and experiment a bit, see where it takes me (I've heard it's best to put the compressor after the EQ, can't recall where I heard that, but I'll let my ears decide for myself later, lol)

    Before I used to just use plug my electric guitar into the preamp (DI) and then my audio interface, and it sounded pretty nice without any compression or EQ whatsoever. But the compression definitely helps.

    Btw, Fall Out Boy released the Garageband file for one of their songs for free download, so I opened it up and looked at it a bit. It's crazy, a lot of the guitar parts when played by themselves (muting all the other tracks) sound so suffocated and condensed (and low quality...), but when they begin to add more guitar parts and pan, you could never tell the quality of the individual guitar parts. It's techniques and a good ear like that I want to develop someday. :lol:

    (on a side note, just curious what everyone's opinions are with recording electric guitars plugged in directly to the DI >> audio interface using virtual guitar amps on the pc vs. recording by using a mic placed near an actual real amp... my amp isn't of good enough quality to really determine and make a serious comparison.. hope I'm not getting too off topic :wink: )
  9. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Nuremberg, Germany
    Home Page:
    well, most people on this forum will say that putting a mic in front of a speaker is the way to go. it's definitely worth the time and effort, when you want to learn how to do it properly.
    anyway, i use software amps and am very happy with the results so far. and i don't have a good room (or any room where i can turn up a guitar amp) at home, or a good amp, cause i'm not a guitarist. i just want to record my songs, so for me the software way is the better way.
    btw, software amps are really good nowadays, even in direct comparison.
  10. I wanted to add another thing about rock mixing, since it’s relevant to this post. I mentioned earlier that by analyzing a lot of other mixes and doing a lot of reading up/experimenting, recording two similar distorted guitar tracks, each hard panned to opposing sides, can help improve the thickness of the sound, which I’m finding works well so far.

    I picked up a new book earlier this afternoon about mixing (it’s a very informative book, btw :D), and coincidentally, the author touches on this subject as well. He does an amazing job at explaining why this is beneficial for opening up the clenched sound of the distorted guitar. He refers to it as the “Haas trick”, a self-created term coined after Helmut Haas’s findings about the dynamics of sound traveling through the air. To achieve this, he recommends making a copy of the original recorded guitar, hard panning it to the complete opposite side, and delaying it slightly.

    Sounds good, but I think I’ll stick to recording the track twice instead. It might just be me, but I like the more varied sound of recording the same track twice rather than duplicating it. He cites some of the advantages include a fatter sound, a great panning alternative, and a sense of more realistic panning. I can’t disagree with that 8)

    I’ll keep listening to more punk/rock mixes, it’s actually a lot of fun analyzing mixes, considering you know what to keep your ears open for :roll:
  11. Jeremy

    Jeremy Active Member

    Aug 9, 2005
    From LV but Army brought me to TN
    I used to record the same guitar parts a couple of times using a different guitar or amp for texture. What I found was the "musicians" I worked with often couldn't reproduce the same guitar track consistently. Now I like to add the delay for texture.....or send the track out to a cab to be re-recorded with a different mic or mic'ing technique.
  12. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Pitch shift one track flat a bit. Sharp just sounds off to my ears, but flat works well for that really thick sound, especially if it's another take.
  13. jg49

    jg49 Distinguished Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    This technique should make anyone with a great sense of pitch squirm in their seats while listening.
  14. ouzo77

    ouzo77 Active Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Nuremberg, Germany
    Home Page:
    i find it's best to play the part 4 times (3rd and 4th can be played with alternative chords) and pan 1 and 3 left and 2 and 4 right. on parts with no vocals i add a 5th guitar a bit lower in the center to fill that up a bit.

    a guitarist should be able to duplicate a track with no problem, otherwise he needs to practice some more...
  15. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Very few people have a great sense of pitch. I've heard quite a few times that most people hear flat, which would explain why going slightly flat goes unnoticed oftentimes, but even a tiny bit sharp can be almost unbearable. But this is a very common technique when the track isn't actually doubled. Or if it is actually doubled.

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