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audio Need Fresh Ears

Discussion in 'Fix This MIX!' started by DonnyThompson, Jul 17, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/still-see-you-rough-mix-july-15

    I've never had the amount of trouble mixing a song as I have this one.

    My ears are fried, completely burnt on this, I've lost all objectivity.

    Written by me, lead vocals are performed by my friend and client, Terry Fairfax, who also played B3 and synth.

    I played everything else. Drums are real (Yamaha's) as are Bass (Hoffner through a DI) guitars (American Tele and Oscar Schmidt Delta King 335 knock-off through a Fender DeVille tube and a Line 6 SS, miked with 58 and Senn 409) Acoustic Guitar Intro recorded using U89, Acoustic Guitar For the body of the song I used two 414EB's in a Blumlein Array

    Lead vox are through a Neumann U89, backing vox (me) are through a 414 EB.
    Aphex Model 107 Tube Pre Frontload, Preamp Audio I/O = Tascam 1641

    Recorded in Sonar, some tracks submixed in Harrison MixBus, and the final mix was done in Samplitude.

    Any suggestions, thoughts, comments, advice is welcome.

    I've gotten to the point where I'm unable to distinguish what it needs and what it doesn't.
    Don't worry about sparing my feelings. If this sucks I want to know.

  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    It'll be interesting to see if the comments are similar to those I sent you privately ;)
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This version is slightly different from the one I sent you. I remixed and tweaked last night.
  4. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    I'll go.
    first impession..
    maracas are distracting and just kind of sound like white noise in the mix in the beginning.. try a mix with that track on mute ;)
    once it gets going the tamborines are too prickly, can you lop off the top end on those?
    I kinda like the singers vocal during the sparser arrangements with no reverb. I think you turned it on a bit too soon, no vocal reverb until 1:38?
    Can I also suggest more pick attack and less boom for this type of walking bass line?

    I need a Tom Petty track for reference :)
    did you check this mix in mono?
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks Josh. Ya. It checks out fine in mono. I suspect the "boomy" bass is because it's a Hoffner Beatle Bass, I probably should have stuck with a P bass for this track.

    I have no problem dumping the maracas - or even the tambourine either - for that matter. Neither of those are deal breakers to me.
    So you're saying I should wait until the full instrumentation comes in before adding verb to the lead vocal track?
  6. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    i think so, from a songwriting perspective, i thought it felt too different.
    i would axe those maraca/tamb elements. they are either too panned or need to be buttered more. too harsh.

    dont think i didnt just download some petty for reference ;)
  7. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    dig this bassline balance donny... very similar walking line, but not so ass ended.

    View: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZlFGLn52JU
  8. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    I cheat on that though. I have a giant bass node right in the corner behind me. I stick my head in there and if my hair shakes, it's too much... lol :)
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    okay... I think we might be getting somewhere here... and Kurt might be right in terms of having too much bass trapping... let me explain....

    To me, this Petty track sounds bass-shy. Maybe this is telling me that I have too much low-end absorption in place. If I were mixing this Petty track in my room, I would have added 2 db around 80hz or so on the bass track, and then perhaps a bit of 1k-2k for presence.

    I'm gonna have to run this by Space or Andre. I may have overdone the low end trapping?

    Thanks for posting this Josh.

    PS... as a side note, PC sent me an excerpt of my song after running it through his 4-710 with a touch of 1176, and it absolutely tightened up the low end and added definition. I'm hoping he'll post here what he sent me via email. I don't want to post it myself until I know it's cool with him, though. Plus, I can't answer questions as to specific settings he used during the processing, and he can. ;)

  10. Paco Secada

    Paco Secada Active Member

    I doubt I have the expertise or skill set to adequately comment, but I'll go ahead.

    Did you considered putting a multi-band compressor on the vocal track? It would probably help with the shaky/warbling quality of the vocals.

    I also agree with the note on ditching the additional percussions, unless you plans on softening the attack, and placing them further in the background. It does feel distracting.

    I really enjoy the mixing on the guitars (acoustic, clean and gritty tones), and I like the tasteful use of delay. And although the bass feels very boomy, I really like the tone and the bassline. I enjoy the mixing for the drums, but am I hearing a sample being triggered with the snare hit? I would like to see if more of the rattle from the snare bottom can come through the mix. If that's how the snare is tuned, then I would see about blending in a sample replacement to have a greater presence of the crack on each hit.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks Paco... I appreciate you taking the time to listen and post your thoughts.

    I've deleted all percussion... no more shaker, no more tamborine. They were offering nothing of value to the song. It wasn't hard for me to ditch them. ;)

    The snare isn't triggering anything. What you may be hearing is a convolution plate reverb I used on it, with a predelay setting of 90ms. The snare you are hearing is real, a 1968 Ludwig Black Beauty. In fact, all the drums are real (Yamahas)... I suspect that the predelay on the verb is what is giving you the impression o a triggered sound. I may need to tighten up the attack on the verb.

    I'm thinking that the "boominess" that you and others are hearing on bass may be attributed to the bass itself - I used a Hoffner Beatle Bass on this track, and it's not the easiest bass in the world to mix. In fact, it's given me some hair-pulling moments. During one section it will sound fine, and two or 3 measures later, something sounds "off".. it's either too prominent, too shy, overbearing or seemingly not there at all, tonally speaking.

    I wanted a kind of vintage sound to the bass track, but it has come at a high price in terms of frustration in getting it to sit well tonally in the mix... and yeah, I've used compression on it, as well as volume envelope drawing, with not a great deal of success, unfortunately. I've come to the point where this mix might be best served by just biting the bullet and re-tracking the bass from the ground up with a Fender P.

    I did try using a MB (Fabfilter) on the lead vox, but it seemed to create a result that sounded too squeezed, lifeless. However, I may approach that process again.

    The vocalist is a friend of mine, and he has MS, so sometimes his voice sounds shaky - what you are hearing as "warbly", is actual physical weakness. This track was the best performance we could get the day we recorded. I may be able to get him to approach a brand new performance on a day where he feels better. It's a day to day thing with him, unfortunately. MS is a terrible disease, and it takes its toll so many different ways.

    Thanks again for listening and for your suggestions Paco. I really do appreciate it. :)

  12. natural

    natural Active Member

    Well, there's a couple references to Tom Petty.
    Do you like the sound of this track?

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TlBTPITo1I

    Do you see how the drum sound compares to your track?
    How about the overall clarity?

    Can you remix the drum, bass, gtr (no vocal or lead yet) to match?
    I would like to see how close to this sound you can get.

    Or do you like the 'Flirting With Time' sound better?
    It's completely different. Personally I don't care for the quality or the mix.

    If this is wrong type of sound you're going for, can you post something else that would be a better comparison?

    You might not need fresher ears, just a better benchmark
  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    My studio has been dismantled so I can only go by what I listen to the other day and my memory. It sounded crammed and over processed. My favourite part is the intro on the guitars and I always love your bridges and harmonies.

    The problem I hear: Your drums are the smallest space in this. You are struggling to put a full meal inside a cardboard box. Your drums are forcing you to mix small and cramming it all up. Doing nothing but driving you bonkers. Its a loosing battle.

    I blame this 100% on your drum sound, then conversion, gear and processing. Its a domino effect. Welcome to the nightmare.
    If You gave this to me, I would replace the drums because they are restricting you to mix small.
  14. natural

    natural Active Member

    Oh, Please don't resort to total drum replacement just yet. I've heard that knee jerk reaction so many times from wannabe producers, It's just silly.
    This mix sounds like it would certainly separate the professional engineer from the novice.
    As a seasoned professional I would never suggest replacement as a first approach. I can probably work wonders with what you have. You can also work wonders too. You just need a clearly defined goal, and figure out how to get there. Then, if something really needed replacing you would know for sure, and even then it might only be the kick for instance.
    But please tell me that you have about 8 tracks of drums to work with. Tell me more how the drums are tracked.

    I like this song and would really like to see the mix through here.

    But it does depend on the type of sound you're going for. Retro (as in "Flirting With Time" ) Or more Contemporary (You don't know...)
    If it's the retro approach, then you're really almost there.
    In either case it's apparent that these two video's are brighter by comparison. There's several ways to get there as you know.

    If you didn't over process anything on the way in, then everything should work out fine with 100% of the problem at this point being EQ.
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    "wannabe producers". I'm not sure if that isn't one of your best direct insult to me to date? Is it? First approach or not, that is a typical response from the less informed but overly confident.
    Now all we need is Remy, then you two love birds can show us how its done in 2014. Perfect timing, I'm getting excited and I hope you finally show us (me especially) how to do it like a professional? :)
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "This mix sounds like it would certainly separate the professional engineer from the novice."

    I understand what you are saying. Right now I'm feeling much more like the latter than I am the former. It's frustrating, because I have done quality work many, many times in the past. This one, however, is not a good example of that.
    Then again, I wasn't posting this track to get compliments... I knew that it didn't really deserve any... my intention was to let fresh ears hear this in an effort to figure out where I went wrong. ;)

    I won't argue with Chris regarding the gear; there's no doubt that I have weak links in my gear chain. I'm in desperate need of an upgrade in both pre's and conversion... but I can't blame it all on that. I've done some nice work on this gear before. It would be too easy to put 100% of the blame on the equipment. At some point I need to take responsibility for how I used the gear...and in this particular case, I think I screwed the pooch but good.

    I'm not quite sure how we got to the Tom Petty comparison here. I love Tom Petty, but it wasn't the sound I had set out for. If I've arrived there, or somewhere similar to it, it was purely by coincidence.
    Personally, I'm not hearing the comparison, but then again, my ears are so fried right now that I'm not able to really hear anything at all.

    The tracks are indeed discreet.. kick, snare, hh, toms on a stereo track (mic'd with X-Y), crash cymbals (same) ride (discreet).

    But, before I start sending out tracks for a remix, I'm gonna strip this down to the bare bones one more time and have a go at it myself...again.

    While I enjoy the thought of a mix-off, it's not going to do me any good in terms of figuring out where I went wrong. It's not a "pride" thing... (okay, maybe it's a little bit of pride) but mainly it's that I need to figure out the wrong turns I made along the way, because I took so many different turns in an effort to improve it... only to find that it resulted in the opposite.

    It could indeed be over-processing. It could be over-compressed. It could be over-EQ'd. I made quite a few turns along the way, most of them wrong turns.

    If we are going to have a mix-off, then the tracks need to be good at the source; and I'm now thinking that they aren't.

    Let me think about this... I have a show I have to do tonight - out of town - so I will be gone here today from 3pm - tomorrow morning.

    I'm not saying "no" unequivocally, but this is my first reaction right now. I need to figure out what I did to screw this one up so badly.

    Thanks a bunch for listening and critiquing guys. I think you all know me well enough by now to know that I want honesty, and that this post wasn't an effort to show off.
    LOL.. Believe me, if I wanted to show off, I sure wouldn't have posted this track, because I've done far better work than this. This was a courageous move on my part to make public a BAD mix in an effort to improve it. It's not an easy thing to do....laying out your weaknesses for the world to hear... but it's the only way I'm gonna get better at what I do.

    Being a professional doesn't exclude you from making mistakes, or having a slump. ;)

  17. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    @Donny : it's a nice Idea to go back to the begining, remove all plugins/effects, ajust volumes and pan only and listen to it like that. Play it in your car and a few places.. let your ears/brain reset ;) and take notes on what you don't like about the bare/mix. After that take the list and put priority on the defects you dislike. Fix the first 25% and let it go like that for a couple of days (again in different systems)
    Having a list and treat only a part of it at the time is the best way to avoid overmixing. Also, having a reference is a MUST, especialy when we are part of the project (musician/signer...) You know I'm not crasy about your decision to make the drum sound like in the 80' but you have all my respect. if you are to go 80s or not, make sure they sound big and still have dynamics to them. There will be some good compression happening in the mastering phase, try to use more automation and/or lower ratios. Also, try to avoid changing the reverb amount along the song. Make the band in a single room/hall from measure 1 to the end of the song. LESS IS MORE my friend !! ;)

    @audiokid, I know you are going through hard times lately. You are a passionate and cleaver guy. You have the respect of many people on this board and we know what your are capable of. Hang on tight ! Even tho I cannot help, my thoughts are with you man ;)
    bigtree and DonnyAir like this.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "let your ears/brain reset.."

    I think you pretty much hit this one on the head, Marco. I've been beating this horse continually, 2 weeks after it was already dead. The answer to my problems isn't to continue to tweak and add more processing... it's to use less.

    I'm going back to square one on this project. Gonna start by stripping away everything, listen to the raw tracks, get balances and imaging that work well with each other... Which is how I should have approached this to begin with.

    I knew I was continuing to dig the hole deeper and deeper with every "change" I made... it was like I couldn't stop myself... I broke my own basic engineering philosophy and rules - and I paid for it with what resulted, and what I absolutely should have expected: over-processed - over EQ'd - over compressed - no-definition or clarity - MUSH. MUD. CRAP. LOL

    And you're right. I do need a reset. Right now, my brain and my ears are like a PC with millions of processes running at the same time, waiting for the "blue screen of death" crash.

    I need to dump my mental RAM and reboot after taking a few days off and away from this one.

    Thanks pal. ;)
  19. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Don't beat yourself so much, we're all been there. Working on our own project is always like starting with an handicap. We need some detachment to make it work... ;)
    DonnyAir likes this.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL...great advice. I'll start with my head. I'm sure I have a saw-zall laying around in the basement somewhere. ;) LOL
    pcrecord likes this.

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