Mixing - Tracking Question

Discussion in 'Mixing & Editing' started by Willi E., Jan 15, 2003.

  1. Willi E.

    Willi E. Guest

    Hi folks,

    after "playing" for a while (talking about hours, weeks, months) with my DAW of choice (Qbase SX)I've managed to come up with some good songs, in my opinion.
    I'm in that composer/producer thing and also forced to do mixing/mastering on my own within my limited possibilities.
    May main genre is Hip Hop and I'm pursuing to do my own beats and not using samples just because i can always start from zero and let the creativity rule.
    Therefore my choice on which DAW i wanted to use was an easy because from my point of view as an composer (but not the classic composer, you know that paper thing) I wanted good midi functionality and MULTIPLE UNDO/REDO which is a sake for my creativity (i loooooooooove it). Yes, I admit that I'm not the perfect instrumentalist and I need midi. And why not? If the technical progress makes it available, why not using it?

    It's the people who makes it a good tool or a crap. After all it's just electronic notation.

    So, after this long intro now let's get to the actual topic.

    My basic setup is an Yamaha Motif Workstation, AN1x virtual analog, a pc and Qbase.
    The audio signal runs as a summ thru my analog Behringer Mixer (the smallest one) and ends up in my DAW thru an 24/96 Marian Marc 4 Midi Audio-Card.Monitors are Alesis MKII active with plugs in the holes for a more accurate bass response.

    Now after I experimented a lot with mixing I've realised that my mixes where "thin" and found out that reverb do wonders. You can only achieve "depth" in an appropriate "room", the bigger the room, the greater the depth. And It's great to create certain moods.

    Then I started to move things around (panning) and realized that It really improves the mix for wider stereo and better recognition of the different instruments.

    Now for my standard I've achieved a quite good mix for an "homestudio enviroment" but as an very finicky perfectionist I'm still not pleased.

    The whole composition is in midi and for the tracking I'm going into the DAW all at once.
    The mixing effects are from my workstation, so the summing happens in my Motif.

    Now my problem is that if I am referring to commercial releases my mix is not that tight.
    The different tracks/instruments pro's cd's seems to stick together as they where molded.
    Just one organic thing. Also I've realised that even though I'm noticing a very wide stereo recording and I'm hearing every track/instrument very clearly I can't say whether it's hard panned left or right. It's just in it's place where it belongs. It seems almost that it's just doubled and you hear left and right the same.

    How do they achieve that? Could you please tell, I can't figure it out.

    Also the synth sounds they use are always a little bit warmer and "softer" and I'm not talking about the presets they use. It's just the overall sonic difference that makes them sound softer. Is there a good advice for a special frontend/effects for tracking synthesizers to make them sound warmer and softer.

    My last question for today is about EQing.
    I know you guys have the luck to do a lot of tracking with live instruments in live enviroments. And therefore sometimes or often you have to use an EQ.
    But in my enviroment with all my "perfect" ;-) prerecorded patches/instruments with careful composition and right instrumentation, do I need EQing to achieve a perfect mix?

    Now thank you for reading this long article and I hope I gave you enough information to make you a good picture of my situation and to perceive as much as possible. Thanks in advance.
    Maybe some of you can give me some good advices and I'm appreciating this forum very much, nowhere to find such profound knowledge.

    As an example for you guys out there to what I'm referring to. The new Blueprint 2 from Jay Z or The Eminem Show would be good examples and everything done by Timbaland.

    At the moment I'm in the situation of getting a demo together for an Label to get involved in the game as an upcoming producer/composer.
    So my goal is to achieve the best possible results and to learn as much as i can.

    So I'm really appreciating every comment which is about mixing and tracking techniques to develop myself.
    But I'm sadly limited in my budget so at this stage of my career I can't afford an big frontend SSL mixing console or the other nice gimmicks you have. But I'm really curious about any suggestions about affordable equipment which will really improve "THE SOUND" and yes even that I'm doing "JUST" Hip Hop I really care about audio quality.

    Thanks and sorry for my bad english. I'm not a native tongue.
  2. Sebatron

    Sebatron Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Long letter man! ;)
    Narrowing the dynamic range of different instruments by different amounts is always a good place to start.
    This should make your mix sound more congealed.
  3. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Very big questions Willi E.

    suffice to say that it takes cumualtive YEARS of experiance and the access (in most cases) to all of the tools necessary to achieve what you hear on commercial recordings. Keep pluggin' away and you'll improve.
    But don't be bummed if you can't duplicate a Dre. Track. it's like expecting to get to the moon with your first plane.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Willi posted;
    This achieved by using separate short reverbs, small room settings. Different 'verbs for different tracks. Being your mixing the instruments in the Motif this may be hard to achieve. Try printing some of these to Cubase where you will be able to pull up multiple instances of VST 'verbs.

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This is very subjective and entirely depends on what the song needs. I have found that midi sounds are already compressed and eq'd when they are sampled so use discretion with these tools when mixing midi sounds. A little of each can go a loooooong way. Let us know if there is anything else we can help with.

    BTW, if this is any help in getting you that gig as a producer, go to the RO Store and buy a hat and mug. Proceeds go to help keep the lights on here at RO. Fats
    Tannoys, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D ,Genelec, Hafler, KRK, PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  5. jajjguy

    jajjguy Guest

    EQ is used on live instruments for two main reasons. 1: To fix or perfect the sound of an instrument you've recorded. (Hopefully one doesn't need to do this too much, hopefully one gets the sound one wants from the instrument, mic, and placement.) 2: To fit different instrument tracks together in the mix. (If you have the mix all in your head when you're tracking, you may not need this kind of EQ either, but that's really hard to do.)

    Because you're using synth patches you (probably) won't need the first kind of EQ but you may well need the second. Try to notice which frequency areas each instrument covers. Some instruments cover mainly one area, and some cover more than one. If you have instruments "fighting" over a range of frequencies, you might be able to clear this up a bit with EQ. Also try to notice blank spots, and see if you can fill these in, either with additional tracks or maybe by using EQ to bring out some buried frequencies in instruments that are already there.

    Fitting everything together frequency-wise is one thing helps make a good tight mix. Of course it's best to do this with your arrangement, choice of instruments and sounds, mics, etc., but EQ can help too.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    jajjguy sez;
    I was going to jump in and say something here until I read further,

    That is so true. It really is more important to get your arraignments together than to worry about eq and compression. A well arranged composition can be recorded in mono, with no eq no compression and you will still be able to hear all the elements. Perhaps that should be the test. Hit the mono button, turn off all the outboard. If certain things are masking others, change the arraignment, remove extraneous elements or do what ever else you can without resorting to the eq's and comps. After you have that nailed down, then use the eq's and comps as an artistic tool to shape and color the piece to your tastes. Just a thought. Good call jajjguy !!! …………. Fats
    Tannoys, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D ,Genelec, Hafler, KRK, PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
  7. e-cue

    e-cue Active Member

    Oct 5, 2000
    Youch. This is a VERY big topic that doesn't really have an easy answer. The best suggestion I could give it to A/B to these records and try to emulate what they are doing that you like, and then taking it a step futher. I've worked on a couple Timb tracks so if there's one in particular you like, PM me and maybe I worked on it and can give you some specfics.

    1st off, I think your english is fine, and very understandable. As for "I'm doing just hip hop", etc... There were years, even decades were hip hop DIDN'T have budgets and didn't outsell every other genre like it does today. Try not to think that your gear is the reason your mixes suck. The past has proven that you can have GOOD SOUNDING records on every format out there, even Adats (shutter to think). A lot of times I "dirty" my mixes up. Bob Powers is the master at this. So if you hear a Wu Tang song that has distortion all over the place, don't assume it's a mistake or bad engineering. Punk and Indie rock are very much the same way with the "lo fidely". Some of my best work wasn't done on a major console in a major studio. Learn your equpiment inside and out, and TRY to make everything sound the way you want in the TRACKING stage.

    Good luck.
  8. Willi E.

    Willi E. Guest

    First of all I want to thank you all for the answers and tips i've got.

    About a couple of weeks ago I've had the opportunity to visit a prossional studio at an open-house event and to take a studio tour. I was there for a couple of hours. And I was pretty amazed. It's not like the big Pro-Facilities that you're maybe used to, but they've some decent equipment, medium analog console (damn, can't remember which one), an acousticly pro-designed mastering room for inhouse mastering.

    They've found their niche in helping people to do proffessional recordings at an affordable price.
    They've been around for a while (more than 10 years and over 500 recordings) and they've done a couple of professional recordings for the german market. (Some songs for the NoAngels and BroSys if that helps)
    The owner is a very nice guy with (as far as I'm able to judge) a good amount of knowledge.

    I was really amazed what you can achieve with the right equipment and what's even more important, with the right Know-How.
    They've shown us some stuff they've done, like one recording where you could hear an opera singer and a full blown fat big-bang orchestra playing like in the carnegy hall. I was really shocked after they admited that all recordings were made in the studio and only by 4, yes 4 musicians. I couldn't believe my ears.
    That was another experience that strengthened my decision to make it in the biz'.

    But something really made me curious, and I sadly didn't had the time to ask how it works because there were too many people asking.

    After seeing that big nice tape machine and asking on which things they're using it.
    They told me that it's been used mostly on drums and instantly admited that they don't use it that often. They have it just for the reason the customer insist of using it. But they don't need it because they know how to achieve the warmth with all the equipment and the soft-pluggos they have.

    e-cue - now this is a question especially for you.

    I know it's an old discussion about what equipment is necessary and what not.
    That the whole chain counts and so on.

    My particular question is: Which Frontend before my mixer can I buy too color the sound?

    My subjective notice on most HipHop is that
    - I will make a comparison with synth sounds because I'm sure that even the Pro's don't use super-special-custommade-synths -
    But just for this reason, why it's sounding so much warmer, fatter, tight?

    I guess (even more I hope) that you do tracking as well with all the big names you,ve worked with.

    I'm curious how you track the synth-sounds? Are you recording them as dry as possible or are you coloring the sound in the front-end?
    If that's the case, which affordable equipment could be used for that?

    Is it done in the mixing stage?
    I've thought about EQing, but as far as I've understood the hole thing it's about adding and substracting certain disturbing frequencies. Not coloring the sound, am I wrong?

    How can I achieve it without that big ssl-console and analog circuitry.
    Are there good PlugIns or techniques you could share? (Software that maybe doesn't require ProTools)

    My intention is not to get songs ready for commercial use, it's more the approach that I always could compete with the professional product and it's "almost" no difference.

    At the moment i'm trying to get a demo ready for a few labels to listen and I want it as good as possible.

    In my opinion I'm really close, but still not there.
    Don't get me wrong it's not about the arrangement thing, there is nothing interfering, the groove is good and vibing, interesting beats, a lot of variety. Good Stereo picture and room.
    But I'm just not that satisfied with my synth sounds, overall.
    And my Motif wasn't very low priced. I,ve supposed it should sound like on the Pro's record's.
    So, where's the "magic" please tell, me?

    I would highly appreciate any advice you can give me.
    Something from where I can start.

    Thanks in advance.


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