Need help - first mix

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by kelvin, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

    Guys, need your help here. I need your opinions on the mix of these songs. I used headphones (ATH-M30x) and crappy PC speakers. Appreciate your feed-back. Thanks.

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    turn the guitars down for a start. do something so we can hear the vocals better.
  3. pcrecord

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

    I agree with Kurt, the guitars take all the place and the vocal is burried. Also the drum seem like a bit shy and god like it has only one cymbal (in the track 02) o_O!!! Maybe a bit of compression on the drum could make it a bit more solid.
    Be carefull with the timing your not always lock with the drums and some guitar chords are off tuning. (it sometimes happen when we push too hard in the frets.)

    Both vocal needs to come up and be a bit clearer.

    In general, both songs need more dynamics and energy !

    If you have any questions feel free ;)
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Vocals are buried.

    Is there a bass guitar track? Sounds like just guitar/vocals/drums to me.

    If there is a bass, you might want to write a real bass part - instead of just doing whatever the guitar is doing but an octave down.
    Having a bass line that moves, or that is counter rhythmic and melodic, can help to define the bass better and to make it stand out.

    I think my colleagues here are being kind. And it's not my intention to offend you, but when you post something here, you should expect complete honesty from those giving feedback.
    This one needs quite a bit of help... like going back to square one and a complete re-do.

    It might help us to know a few details about how you recorded this - mics, placement, preamps, amps, processing, the room you tracked in - and obviously your mixing / monitoring situation needs help, if you are relying on HP's and computer speakers...
  5. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

    First, thanks for listening and posting your comments, appreciate all the help.

    So, here's the how:

    guitar->dist.pedal->amp (15W)->mic dynamic (AT-X11)->Tascam US-100->Laptop (Reaper)

    drums - I used a vst plugin, tho I don't really know how to play 'real' drums (but I guess that was obvious =))
    bass - I used the guitar, then EQ and downtuned 1 octave on DAW (@DonnyThompson thanks for the bassline tip)
    vocals - used the same mic, no preamp, not distant (3-5" space), but prolly i wasn't singing really loud
    room - bed room, 'untreated', tracking and mixing
    pc speakers 2.0, headphones (ATH-M30x) - for mixing

    Primarily, my purpose was to know if I'm getting the 'correct' balance of the mix (i.e. how loud the kick or bass should be compared to others).
    And since I'm and will be using pc speakers and headphones, knowing when loud is loud enough, was my primary concern.

    But then, thanks for pointing out the obvious. As it turns out I was oblivious to fact that I'm trying to mix and fix some crappy takes.

    And since, I won't be able to re-do those 2 songs yet, here's another one I recorded. I haven't mess around that much with the levels yet.
    I hope you can give it some time as well.


    Attached Files:

    • 03.mp3
      File size:
      7.8 MB
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You are using a preamp. The Tascam interface you mentioned is a preamp, but, it's also a preamp that is notorious for having very low gain - as many Tascam interfaces/pre's are known for - and because you are using a dynamic mic for vocals - dynamics require more gain than a condenser mic does - and the AT mic you are using is also of very low quality.
    ( I'm not even sure that the Tascam you have even has the ability to accept condenser mics anyway... I did a quick look at the specs and I'm not seeing the 48v phantom power feature that is required to operate condenser microphones).

    The following is if you are serious about recording. If you aren't, then just skip it and follow these simple steps:

    To fix your bass, get a real bass, and play it like a bass player would, or, use a midi/VSTi bass sample and play it with a keyboard controller.
    To fix your vocals, you need to gain the mic up higher - maybe higher than what that Tascam will allow - so you might need to get into another interface/mic pre. A better mic will also help.
    Sing louder. Bring it up to a sufficient level in your DAW, to where it sits over the music, and where the vocals can be distinguished and understood.
    Drums: If you are using VSTi drums, listen to how real drummers play, and try to emulate what you hear. Forget crazy fills right now. Get a drum track that lays even, solid kick and snare, that supports the song.

    That's the extent I can help you without you making significant changes to your recording rig and your environment.

    Now, here's the advice that you can either accept or decline...depending on how serious you want to be, and how much you do (or don't) care about getting quality recordings:

    Mixing - You're nowhere near ready to worry about your mixes yet. You have quite a bit to learn about how to properly record audio sources first.
    And, trying to mix through headphones, or computer speakers in an untreated room, will get you the results you are now getting.

    The fact that you aren't using very good gear to record with, and are tracking and mixing in a room that very likely has acoustic issues, all the while mixing with headphones and PC speakers, is not a recipe for a professional sounding recording - or for that matter, even a decent sounding recording.

    If you also factor in your general lack of experience - with things like EQ, Mics and Mic placement and technique, gain structure, etc. - you are pretty much getting the results that you should expect to be getting.

    Speaking with complete honesty - for right now, I would suggest you use your home recording rig as a way to make demos, get your ideas down, work and re-work performances and arrangements, practice audio principles that you either research and learn on your own or are taught at a school (online courses are available) and then book time at a real studio to talk to a real engineer. Don't expect to do this for free. Expect to pay studio rates. But use the time wisely - write down questions beforehand, observe what the engineer is doing, ask questions, and listen, listen, listen.

    During this time you should also be saving money for a pair of decent reference monitors, and you should continue to be learning as much as you can about the recording process. You should also research acoustic treatment methods for your space.

    Consider upgrading your interface/preamp and microphone as well. For interface/preamps, look at models by manufacturers like Focusrite and Presonus... for mics, consider a Shure SM58. You could also get into a condenser mic at some point, but for right now, where you are at, with the room you are recording in, a good dynamic mic is a better choice, because it will have less tendency to pick up the sound of the room. Condenser mics are more sensitive, and are great for acoustic instruments and vocals, but, because of their higher sensitivity, they will also pick up more of the sound of the room than a dynamic mic generally will.

    You're simply not going to get decent results with your limited knowledge, experience, poor sounding room and ultra low quality, cheap budget-level gear. The experience and skill comes with time, learning and patience. The gear comes at a price - which doesn't include the amount you'll also have to spend to improve your monitoring situation in that untreated bedroom.

    Don't take it personally... you're getting the exact quality that one would expect to get under the conditions you are working, using the type of gear you are working with, and having a very limited knowledge of the craft of audio and what it takes to make good sounding recordings. When you get good sounding recordings to start with - tracks that sound really good without you having to really do all that much to them, then that's the time when you can mix them.

    The good news is, you can improve all of these things. It is absolutely, entirely possible for you to make better recordings.... It just takes a lot of time, dedication, education, passion, and money. ;)
  7. pcrecord

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

    All relevent info Donny.

    One thing I might add is that when working with not so good gear, I found that the best way to compensate is compare our work with a commercial song professionally recorded which is of the same music style.
    When you A/B all the time, you start to figure what's wrong with your recording and mixing. Then you can start to look for solutions ;)
  8. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    There's a certain charm in these LoFi recordings -- number 3 is basically the kind of garage tape bedroom demo that people used to trade in the day. They all sounded horrible - but that was part of the aesthetic -- quirky rough demos and takes that basically passed as authenticity within the bedroom genre. The real question is what do you want to do? On one hand you are already there for the quirky alty bedroom artist writing and performing songs that you may or may not be trading online or giving to your friends etc... PC talked about having something you are trying to emulate mix and quality wise ---- I'd ask you for the same in terms of where you want to go with this? Who or what do you want to be? Where do you want to go (and how old are you as well)? Donny is right on in what he recommends -- basically - time and money and commitment and desire to get better ---- all necessary no shortcuts kind of stuff --- but only if that's what you want.
  9. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

    I would like to thank you guys for all the time and thoughts, comments, suggestions you've put into this.
    It was great, and somewhat frustrating, that after a few months writing, recording and "mixing"
    I finally got outside opinion on the results. Otherwise I would spend more time, repeating same mistakes over and over.

    To answer your question, I'm old enough to have a job or shall we say career, in a totally unrelated field.

    I've always had that lo-fi thing in mind when I started recording stuff. I thought with the gear
    I have, I'd be able to achieve only this type of sound, though I'm not sure how. Although I also thought that getting
    a somewhat unpolished indie-rock song, with distorted guitars and noise and crap (i.e. Superchunk, early Pavement) was also possible. But then those guys recorded in a studio, so maybe not.

    My plan is to get a few songs out there, share them with friends, put it online. And then, probably stay in the bedroom and continue writing/recording whenever I have time. To jam with friends and play them live would also be cool, but not really top priority.

    How serious I am? Not as serious as to pursue a career in it. But I really want to improve on all aspects and continue writing stuff (even non lo-fi) and be able to properly mix them. Though the gear and decent home studio may have to wait a few years. I cannot afford them at present.

    For now, my target is to be able to produce decent crappy lo-fi songs within the year.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well, there's two kinds of lo-fi...

    There's lo-fi that is intentional, where a certain stripped down sound is desired, and there are many ways to achieve that - but within this intentional lo-fi sound, there is still a sort of professional fingerprint ... a "balance".

    Then there is the un-intentional lo-fi sound, a sound that is obtained because the gear used is very cheap, and the knowledge limited, to the point where even if you desired a more polished type of sound, you still wouldn't be able to get it because of the limitations.

    In the end, if what you desire is this lo-fi style, then I suppose it doesn't really matter which means to that end you use, as the results will be the same.... except to say that with intentional lo-fi, there's an element that can be heard where it's obvious that the producer (that's you) knows what they are doing and a balance of sorts can still be perceived.

    While you may desire the lo-fi sound, yours is more "unintentional" - in that it's pretty much just a bad recording, because of the cheap gear you are using and the limited knowledge that you have... and you wouldn't be able to get a hi-fi sound even if you wanted to because of the limitations that are present......

    if the sound you are getting is what you like, then it doesn't matter.

    There's no doubt that some lo-fi recordings can have a certain charm. The Kingsmen's Louie Louie is a perfect example of this - it's a terrible recording - distorted, no low end, noisy, pretty much everything that a good recording isn't - but it doesn't matter... and really, I don't want to hear that song produced with polish or fidelity. It works great because it sounds bad. It's raucous, raw, and fun.
    ( It was also a gigantic hit, and can be heard in hundreds of commercials, TV shows, movies, and even sporting events. It's over half a century old and still gets massive airplay and use).

    At some point though, I'd wager that you might want to move on and at least have the option to produce better sounding recordings - a higher fidelity style - at which point you'll need to further your knowledge and invest some money into some better gear to make that happen.
  11. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    Then I'd invest in some gear and proceed as Donny recommended. I wasn't sure if you were a 17 year old kid in your bedroom with paper route and lawn cutting money or a starving indy artist trying his best to not sound professional - but if you really want to make a go of things (and I liked the song I listened to) then put a little money into this because you could really do something cool with it.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Right now, the fact that you are working primarily with a lo-fi kind of "vibe" to your music is convenient, because the gear you are using isn't really capable of allowing you to do anything other than that. Basically, it's a convenient coincidence for you.

    But I'm pretty sure that there will come a time when you'll want to branch out and do other things - other styles that command higher quality audio, and in order to get this, you'll need higher quality gear. Of course your knowledge and skill will also come into play, but, without a better quality signal chain, you'll never be able to truly accomplish that without investing in some higher quality recording gear.

    I've often heard it said that what matters most in audio production is having the knowledge and the ears... and to a certain extent this is true, in that if you don't have the ability to listen critically, and the knowledge to apply changes to what you hear that needs changed, then the best gear in the word won't make up for that... but ... it's assumed that if you have designs on being a professional audio engineer, you already have the finely-tuned hearing and a basic working knowledge of the process.... and that leaves the equipment as the other part of that equation - and the fact that the quality of the tools we use really does matter.

    In the hands of those who are inexperienced and lacking knowledge, cheap tools can make things even worse - because you are being "lied to" by the audio. Cheap gear makes audio sound bad, and it may not even be anything you've done - other than to use low quality equipment. But using quality equipment can help you to hone your skills a lot better - and a lot faster - because the audio you are working with is honest, and isn't fighting you by presenting you with poor sonics to work with.

    Working with higher caliber gear allows you to hear the results of the changes you make with a lot more accuracy, and in turn, when you can actually hear the result(s) of the things you have done, you learn more.
    It's also a lot nicer to turn out audio that sounds good - even if the mix may not be the best - than it is to constantly turn out bad-sounding audio, which does nothing more than frustrate you, because no matter how much you learn and grow, the audio quality never really does... even though you gain more knowledge, the audio doesn't reflect that, because of the limitations inherent to the equipment, and that can be very frustrating.

    While there are some professionals who can use cheap tools and get somewhat better results out of them than someone who doesn't know what they are doing, even those professionals will end up spending a great deal of time compensating for the limitations and problems that poor gear has, instead of doing what they would normally do, which is to work with great sounding audio and apply their knowledge and skill to mix this into a great sounding final result.

    In short, cheap gear results in the user having to constantly fight the limitations that are common to cheap equipment, instead of simply doing our jobs of mixing and making subtle changes to audio that already sounds good - because good gear was used to record that audio to begin with.

    It's a bit like trying to make a good meal out of poor ingredients... You can follow a time-tested and proven great recipe, paying close attention to what you are adding, adhering to the instructions perfectly, down to the finest detail, but if the ingredients you are using to make that recipe are sub-standard to start with, then the meal won't taste nearly as good as if you'd followed that same recipe using quality ingredients instead. ;)


  13. kelvin

    kelvin Active Member

    Wow, thanks for all these ^
    I've been checking out this site from time to time, trying to learn a few things.
    My question now is - is it OK to go studying and learning to mix with headphones and pc speakers? Will it not mislead me?
    By studying, I mean reading books and stuff and sites like this and practicing them (i.e. EQ, compression, etc.) on DAW.

    I'm planning to get myself a SM58 first. Probably next month.
    Now, for monitors, which one do you recommend? I read somewhere that the decent ones comes at $300 and up.
    I'm looking at Rokit 5 G3. Some says one can't get decent monitors priced at less than $300.
    I'm not 100% sure, I gonna have them in few years time, but since putting them in my plan, I want to aim for something specific.
  14. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    I'd recommend an SM57 and a better interface first - you could step that up for sure - then the monitors -- right now it's your capture that's really obviously low quality. But wait till others chime in because they might direct you a bit better.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The thing is, everything pretty much comes into play on equal levels. Upgrading your mic is a good idea, because that's where it all starts. But, if you don't also upgrade your audio capturing device,too, if the device you are using transforms the audio in a negative way, then the mic alone won't mean as much. Accordingly, upgrading your mic and audio capture device is good, but... if you are using cheap monitors, which skew the sound you have recorded, then the mic and the capture device is only going to take you so far... Further, upgrading your monitors is great too, but if your room is lying to you acoustically, then it will only improve so much... and so on and so on.

    The point is that your quality will only ever be as good as the weakest link in your entire chain is. So, you have to kind of look at upgrading everything.

    The Shure SM58 is a fine dynamic microphone, and an industry standard workhorse. In your case, if you are recording in an environment that is acoustically poor, it would probably be a better choice for you because it will have less tendency to pick up the sound of the room while you are recording. It will also handle hi SPL amounts. ( Sound Pressure Level). But, you're going to need a preamp /audio I-O that is of a quality build and sound, and that will provide enough gain. Dynamic mics are traditionally lower output than condenser mics are. I would recommend either a Focusrite or a Presonus pre/i-o. The cost is going to be dependent on how many input channels you require. If you are satisfied with 2 channels for right now, you should be able to pick up either for around $150 or so, although if you are going to need a midi interface to connect up a keyboad so that you can play VSTi's, a model with midi might cost closer to $200.

    As far as monitors go, anything you get right now will be a step up from the PC speakers/headphones you are currently using. KRK's are popular monitors, although I have no experience with the model you've mentioned.

    Yeah, they will mislead you, big time, but... the more you continue to work at it, the more experience you will gain, the more you will learn, and, there's the possibility that you could eventually learn to acclimate your ears to the speakers you are currently using, to sort of "adjust" your ears to the lack of quality. Listening to pro commercial releases as a reference before you mix can help out a lot, too. Then, taking the mix and listening to it on a variety of playback systems can help you to tweak what you hear even further... but don't be mistaken, it's not a permanent solution.

    Eventually, you'll have to get a pair of actual nearfields that can give you a much more accurate representation of what you are hearing.

    In a nutshell, you're only ever going to go so far, and improve only so much, when using cheap gear, because you'll spend most of your time adjusting and compensating for the cheap equipment and what it does to your sound.. and that's really not the most productive way to approach things.

    Most hobbyists don't truly understand what really takes to get even moderately decent sounding recordings and mixes - it takes time, dedication and, an investment; and the amount of that investment will dictate the level of quality that you end up with.

    Here's a good start:

    Preamp/I-O with Midi, $159

    SM58 mic, $99

    JBL powered monitors, $150 (ea)

    So, for around $600 or so, you've upgraded, and you are upgrading in a way that you will notice an immediate difference in quality, compared to the way you are doing things right now...

    There are cheap DIY methods of temporarily treating your space acoustically. Items like packing blankets, ( $15) a roll of Roxul Safe n Sound insulation for bass traps and broad band absorption, ($50), will all help. Again, not ideal, but better than what you have now.



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