very confused about mixing.

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by ECNeeba, Jun 23, 2014.

  1. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member

    I have a number of questions concerning mixing. in my 2 years of making instrumentals, I'm only beginning to learn about proper mixing now. The mixing in all the work I've made in the past 2 years sounds like garbage; and I wanna change that.

    So far, I know that when mixing, the levels in each track shouldn't reach the red zone. I've also been about subtractive equalization as opposed to the additive equalization i've been using. Now that I've been mixing my songs more properly, the rendered files end up being too quiet in comparison to my reference music (which consists of mostly hip hop songs). This is all because I'm avoiding that red zone in order to allow headroom and keep the mix clear. How do I make the overall sound as loud as the sound of my reference music without blowing out the levels on my mixer? any help is greatly appreciated.
    I'm using reaper btw.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Here's a couple of my observations.

    You might be practicing " subtractive EQ ". But really... I think that's where most of your problems lie? While I do use some modest subtractive EQ. I'm using a British EQ whose Q, is quite wide and only a few frequency selections offered. So that's not surgical EQ like you're trying to perform.

    I don't believe in just subtractive EQ. Why do you do that? There are some things that call for some boosts. Where others require some cut. And if you think it's only one or the other? Please don't tell me you got a degree in the Recording Arts & Sciences? Why do you think they make boost available? So you can sit there and twiddle your thumbs? And be confident you boosted nothing?

    I think if you take that stance, that you need to do surgical EQ cutting only? Nothing will ever sound forward. Now I'm not always right but I'm never wrong. When I hear when folks only use subtractive EQ on their recordings that while they may sound slick. They never seem to grab me? They don't jump out at me. Nothing seems to be coming forward? It all seems to lie, in the background. Those kinds of recordings did nothing for me. It might be a nice tune to listen to? And that's its only saving grace.

    So when I want to bring the sound more forward? I'll frequently use some boost EQ? Because here is what I perceive. When you cut something, it sounds to me like whatever frequencies you are cutting, it's slowing everything down. The little electrons are not all synchronized together. The ones that fall behind, sound like they fell behind. Because those important frequencies that bring it forward are not there. And other frequencies that were there are now also not there. Because those frequencies have been slowed down.

    When I boost, it sounds like those frequencies that I have boosted, are speeding up and are now faster than the rest of the program content. Which brings it right up front. Into your face. Because you are boosting those frequencies that flatter the sound rather than trying to correct whatever sound, surgically. So you're not mixing your fixing. And you're fixated on fixing because you're mixing ain't vexing.

    So to make the mix come alive? Use more boost EQ. And don't try to screw around with Q , trying to find a frequency that sounds obnoxious only to be slicing and dicing the life out of your recordings. So how do you think they made great recordings before they had Sweepable Frequencies and Q? They boosted certain frequencies while high pass filtering others. So when you make the little electrons run faster at one frequency bandwidth, whatever happens in time before the other sounds is what is perceived to be forward. When you cut and slow down the little electronic thingies. Because the time is delayed. It never sounds forward. It only sounds accurate. Great if you like that Stereophonic slick horizontals slather of sound. With everything laying back like good little boys and girls. So you sound like you are in control! Because you know what frequencies to cut. Well you're wrong. And you're hearing what you don't want. So don't do that. It's that simple.

    For instance, I'm an old-school 1970s engineer. Most everything will get some kind of boost at some midrange/upper midrange/upper register. While I might be cutting just a little bit around 250 Hz to get the boxy sound out of the bass drum. And some high pass filtering. This gives me a very upfront in your face down. Plus I'm an ardent believer in always inverting phase on the bass drum, when ya have the microphone inside the drum. And folks never seem to understand that or do that? Don't ask me why? Don't get me started. Everyone has described my sound as extremely organic. And they can hear everything, at any volume level, on any playback system. From, 1 inch diameter laptop speakers. To miniature, near field, compact control room monitors. To large full-blown JBL's. And I compress the be Jesus out of most everything. The only difference there, I don't use any fast attack times. None. I want those peaks flying through. And then I want the compressor to suck up the tonality of the drum/drums. Followed by a noise gate, only on individually miked drums. And that should rock your world.

    Telling me you only use surgical, subtractive, EQ, it is like telling me that you are so conservation oriented, that ya don't use toilet paper. So don't do that. Live dangerously. Take risks. Push the envelope. You need to go at the speed of sound. Don't slow the sound down.

    Place the Q, on your EQ, to 1 Octave, bandwidth. Leave it there. And then start boosting what needs to be boosted to bring it forward. It's like focusing a camera. You need to focus it forward. It's not a macro lens. So when ya put the close-up lens on the camera and try to focus on something at a distance. It's out of focus. That's what you're trying to do here. Don't do that.

    Subtractive EQ really has a better function, with the PA system. It will reduce feedback. Because you are delaying those frequencies. But if you speed them up? What do you get? You get feedback. None of which is good. But when making recordings. You are talking about recording aren't you? The sky's the limit. And you're not George Massenburg by the way. He's the one that popularized what you're doing. It's not wrong. So he also boosted.

    I boost a lot of stuff. Sometimes my sound is almost too much in-your-face? It certainly never lays back. I'm a stickler for timing. Timing is everything. When you slow down little electron thingies. Time slows down. When you boost. Time speeds up. You do the math. Then do the remix. Then call me in the morning.

    Don't do it if it hurts. And you're telling me it's hurting. And then you tell us that you like to punish yourself, only using subtractive EQ. So are you? Or are you not? A masochist? Or are you a recordist? Or are you, a mixist? Because if you're not getting what you're wanting by doing what you do? Then don't do that. Empty your mind. Leave it in the bathroom. So, get down to some good old-fashioned mixing with EQ that will actually sound good. A wide bandwidth Q, will make a huge sounding change, without need to crank the boost hard. So a very little will go a long way. And you'll forget about those frequencies you used to cut. And because that is what the British EQ sound, was all about. They didn't have parametric blah blah. It's great if you're a ProTools geek. So, all your stuff to sound exactly like all of your other comrade ProTools stuff also sounds like. So you can be in the ProTools click? So which is important to ya? Good sound? Good mixes. Or being the master of cutting EQ and Pro Tooling it?

    Listen to my stuff and you'll hear what I'm talking about. You can find RemyRAD examples on Sound Cloud & YouTube.

    You can think about cutting EQ from another perspective. So... you're on a football team. You're there to give it your all. But for the entire duration of the game, you were cut. Does that make the game better or worse? Do the math. Wouldn't they be better with ya? Than without ya ? No? Now how do ya think about only cutting EQ? So, don't do that.

    Of course if you attempt that? And you don't adjust your gain staging, accordingly? You'll be getting those red lights flashing all over the place. So, don't do that.

    Do you like whole nuts? Or do you like crushed nuts? If ya like the whole nuts? You can still use lots of compression on individual tracks. As long as you have a slow attack and no lookahead. Because lookahead will give you, crushed nuts. And I think, that could hurt? So, don't do that. Slow attack times. Let the peaks come flying through. In other words darling, let the sound out of the box. You're keeping it boxed up. And it sounds boxed up. So if you love it? Set it free.

    It's easy.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    lately we've been encouraging everyone to post example. Its a lot easier to pin point where you need help ;)
  4. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member

    I see where you're coming from when it comes to boosting. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I believe in surgical EQ only. I've been leaning towards the surgical side lately simply because I've fallen into the beginner trap where we tend to overdo the boosting in order to make the sound louder. Like I said earlier, my previous mixes sound like garbage, and I wanna really learn about this stuff.
    After reading over a dozen more articles here and there, I'm finally beginning to realize that mixing and mastering are usually done separately, and getting that "loudness" I'm looking for is done in the mastering stage. Or maybe I'm wrong about everything, I'm still learning, that's why I'm here.
  5. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member
    the link above is to my soundcloud page. The instrumentals were made before I knew anything about mixing and mastering. Any tips on mixing and mastering would help.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Don't worry about "loudness". Worry about making your mix sound good. This is accomplished by:

    1. Balancing the tracks in relation to each other in pan placement, level and tone

    2. Sculpting the EQ/tone of the instruments, so that they sound good together. Don't mix in solo mode, other than to identify a particular problem. People aren't going to listen to a kick drum on its own, they listen to the whole song. Use subtractive, additive, whatever works. If a ride cymbal needs a little more top end, then add it. Just don't go crazy, and always listen to the tracks in relationship to each other, and not on their own.
    Know what certain EQ ranges sound like, familiarize yourself with how they sound and what they result in - both good and bad. Study and learn Hi Pass Filtering. There is no point in adding 100Hz to a flute when the lowest a flute can reproduce is 300Hz.

    3. Gain Reduction - this is where you reign in transients to stop certain parts from jumping out. There are ways to use it for tone and effect as well, but for right now, until you gain more experience, use it only to keep tracks fairly level with each other. Study it. Understand what terms mean... like ratio, threshold, attack, release. Compression is one of the most misused tools for beginners. You don't always need to hear it working for it to be doing its job.

    4. Effects - keep these at a minimum. Effects work best when your entire mix isn't loaded with them throughout the song. If your song is one big effect, then there's nothing to base it on to make the effects effective.
    example: Reverb - Like soy sauce... a little goes a long way. Just the right amount and it can enhance the taste. Too much and it just runs all over your plate. If you over-use it, it can wipe out definition and clarity.\

    5. Mic Technique - with tracks that are real at their source(s), your tone starts at the microphone. You can alter the tone of a given instrument dramatically by moving the mic a mere inch in any given direction.

    That's it... for now. Theres far more to it than just these steps, but these are the fundamentals. Study and research every chance you get. The more you do it, the better you'll get.


  7. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member

    thanks man. I'll definitely forget about loudness for now and focus more on creating better mixes
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...I'll definitely forget about loudness for now and focus more on creating better mixes..."

    That's where it all starts. If you put priority on overall volume, then you are overlooking the most important factor in a mix, and that is how it sounds. If we worry about overall volume first, then all we are left with is a loud but crappy sounding mix. ;)

    Besides, you should let a real Mastering Engineer handle the overall volume for you. Your concern should be to get a solid, great sounding overall mix, with an output level that sits around -12db RMS and a max peak of -6db. This gives the M.E. room to work.

    Here are your fundamental priorities of things to research and learn:

    Gain Structure: Learn how to set up your structure, your "gain chain", so that you aren't under-powering one source and over-driving another.

    EQ: This is your tone, both overall, and individually. Learn to recognize certain frequencies and frequency ranges, and how they pertain to what your instrumentation is. Learn about Subtractive vs Additive EQ, learn the differences between a graphic and a parametric EQ, what they are and what they do. Learn about things like "Q", corner frequencies, low shelf, hi pass filtering, notch filtering, slope, etc.

    Gain Reduction: Understand what it is and what its uses are. Know the difference between compression and limiting. Understand what attack, threshold, ratio, release, input and output gain mean.
    A piece of advice: don't use any form of limiting on your individual tracks. Try to keep your gain reduction centered around light, easy-over compression... at least for right now, until you get a better handle on the whole process of gain reduction. The number one center point of problems in rookie mixes isn't EQ, or Effects, or Panning. It's the over-use - or mis-use - of Gain Reduction.

    Learn what a pan function is (panoramic potentiometer)... experiment with placement of certain instrumentation, and how you can bring parts down or up in the mix by using this function, as opposed to automatically reaching for the volume knob/fader.

    Do your own research. Learn as much as you can on your own. We're happy to answer any specific questions you have, things you might not understand, but, no one is going to hold your hand and walk you through the mixing process. I'm not trying to intimidate you or wave you off of posting your questions... It's just always better to learn as much as you can on your own first, and then come here when you occasionally get stuck. ;)

  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    brutal scratch in there that made me never want to take a chance listening to online music. I thought my precious tweeters were going to rip. I have know idea why you would even add a sound like that in music. It sounds so terrible.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I didn't listen all the way through so perhaps I didn't come to the scratch you're referring to. LOL... Thank God... I'm sure as hell not gonna go searching for it. ;)
  11. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member

    once again, thanks for the advice. i'll get to studying
  12. ECNeeba

    ECNeeba Active Member

    i'm pretty sure this file got corrupted in the uploading process, and that's how the scratch came about. I'm just now noticing it. there's no scratch on the original file on my computer. But no worries, that one was made 2 years ago, and I don't plan on looking back.
  13. pcrecord

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

    ECNeeba, here's some general ideas about mixing :
    'fix it in the mix' doesn't work for me.
    The first thing about mixing is to know when not to overmix or when to go back tracking. Then work on better tracking skills or musicianship. In a perfect situation, you may only need to level the tracks if they sound perfect how they were tracked. Maybe add a reverb to glue things together also. After that, it's a creativity process ; add effects, delay... Of course, perfect situation rarely happen so I regard mixing as a fixing problem step. If it's not broken, I don't touch it. It's important to compare your mix to a commercial reference and to listen to your mix vs before you started to mix. When I started, I found I mixed for hours only to find out it sounded better before I touched anything.

    Of course, all that go non-sense if you are using samples and virtual instruments. 90% of them are already mixed and mastered. so you play with the levels, get creative with some effects and bam !! your done.. ;)

    You should ask questions about the parts of mixing you have challenge with..
  14. pilsenaudiolounge

    pilsenaudiolounge Active Member

    I like to think of mixing as a process of carefully constructing a cohesive and singular sounding sonic sculpture out of many elements which, when new to the craft, often seem to get in the way of one another and wind up instead like a hodgepodge of sounds competing for space in the frequency spectrum (for starters).

    Tracking - When you track something, be it guitars, bass, vocals, drums (kick, snare, OH's, toms, etc) or anything else you intend to record to be mixed later--never opt for hot over, at the time, underwhelming as far as volume/impact are concerned. You'll need a good -8 to -6dBs in the mixing phase, so stay around -16dB. If you peak above that, as you will when tracking transient sound sources (kick drum, snare or even guitars if the intensity of the playing varies throughout the recorded performance [though there are tricks around avoiding this]), it shouldn't be a huge problem as long as it doesn't go to -6dB or above. You may see yourself redlining at 0dB, or above it rather, but in a way you're redlining far below OdB when digital distortion occurs because of the lack of headroom you've left yourself, which will be needed both while mixing and additionally while mastering.

    Mic choices/placements - Take some time to try and get the sound you want out of a sound source instead of rushing through the recording process anxious to dump compressors, limiters and all kinds of other crap on the channel in hopes of finding a shortcut to a warm, present and clear tone. The cleaner the unprocessed, raw stem, the better your mixing experience will be since your options will be endless as you're not having to battle with peaking meters, digi-distortion, problems with the signal-to-noise ratio, etc. There are tons of ways to get creative with micing your sound sources. When micing a half stack I might use an SM57 up close and off axis of one of the speakers (which I'll actually go through and test each one to find the optimal speaker, angle and distance) and then an AKG Perception or C414 about three feet away pointing away from the speakers and maybe towards the ceiling or completely turned away from the speakers to capture the sound of the guitar in the room. Nothing very fancy, but I could go on and describe some fun ways of using mics on guitar amps and vocals, but I want to keep this as much to the point as possible--mixing.

    Mixing (ITB) - You have all your stems lined up--kick, snare, OH L, OH R, rack tom, floor tom, room mic(s), bass, guitar(s), keys/pads, vocals, etc. Everything was recorded clean and none of your signals peaked above 16dB or at least not much more above that (knowing how to use a compressor in your signal chain can help keep signal peaks consistent, but that's another can of worms). What now? Well, you need to know what does what and how to use the tools at your disposal to enhance each disparate element to shape it into a piece of audio that will co-exist in harmony with all the other elements. And NONE of them are treated the same. You need to come to know how manipulating/enhancing/diminishing frequencies in a certain piece of audio (clean electric guitar for example) works to both optimize the individual sound, but more importantly how its used to sculpt frequencies by adding or subtracting dBs from specific ranges in order to make the sound work WITH the other five, ten, twenty or however many other sounds you have to fit into the spectrum comfortably.

    Kick Drums - I record kicks with a Beta52a because its the only kick mic I own and it works pretty well though I'd suggest getting an Audix D6...punchier. You see a lot of engineers burying the mic in the drum, penetrating the sound hole in the front skin. I used to do this until I realized I never got good kick drum sounds and maybe I was doing something I shouldn't have. If a kick has a sound hole, line the mic up so its almost flush with the skin, though a little set back, like an inch or so is fine, and angled such that it sits solidly at the center of the hole while also pointing directly or just slightly off the precise point where the drummer's beater strikes the inside or beating skin. That's it. I can elaborate on using compressors, vintage pre's for coloration, equalizers and certain acoustic treatments or kit placements to get a better and better sound, but that's the basics of a fool proof way to track the kick. Make sure if you ARE using a compressor or pre, however, that your gain staging is set up right. If the mic runs into a compressor and then into an interface or mixer, you need to make sure the make-up volume on the compressor isn't redlining your signal and is peaking around -16dB. If you go way louder, but turn down the mixer channel or monitoring channel to get the DAW's meters to peak at -16dB, you're just turning down a dirty, distorted and shitty signal, which will need to be turned back up in the mixing room and that shitty sounding kick drum will be loud and clear.

    Mixing Kick Drums - Equalizers: There is no set way, but let me give you an idea of what works for me and a lot of other engineers. Kick drums are meant to be felt and a boost at 56k will certainly accomplish that. Its far enough from 100-125k where most bass guitars sit and its not so low that you pick up all sorts of muddy, deep and sloppy low end sounds the human ear has more difficulty detecting (unless boosted, which is why 56k is my personal sweet spot as I'm enhancing the sound itself, but also taking into consideration where other low end elements need to fit and not clash). A HPf at 20-35k is often helpful. It helps tighten up the sound by reducing low end rumble, allowing a punchier sounding kick with more impact. Scooping out anywhere between 370-450k with a modest bandwidth (Q) or sometimes a super narrow one depending on what your ears are telling you is another thing many mixing engineers do almost without thinking. This range is very close to where the thickness of the snare will sit and taking out this range of frequency reduces mid-range clutter and at the same time accentuates the boost made at 56k, again tightening up the kick drum's sound, but also defining its role as the tactile, the felt element that is supposed to be detected by senses other than your ears. If you need more punch you can boost around 3-3.5k, but be careful not to go over board as this is where guitars and vocals sit. A small boost (0.5dB or so with a narrow Q-width in order not to boost unnecessary frequencies) should do the trick. And lastly, a LPf anywhere from 8k-14k depending on how much high end you want to attenuate. Experiment and eventually you'll find what works for you. ​
    Snares - An SM57 or an Audix D2 pointed away from the HH and angled down and pointing at the part of the snare head where the drummer typically hits the snare is all you need to do. Just make sure to point away from the HH so you can reduce bleed, which is not very difficult with unidirectional, dynamic mics since they only pick up sounds aimed straight into the mic and barely pick up sounds coming from any other angles, especially directly behind.

    Mixing Snares - The most difficult thing about mixing drums is getting the snare to feel present and audible at every strike without having to disempower all the other elements of the kit or other instruments to make it possible for it to be heard. Volume is not your focus hear. Sculpting the frequencies to make the snare fit like a puzzle piece into the spectrum using EQ is what its mostly about. I like my snares to sound thick, but not muddy, and with a solid, present attack, not a tinny, ear piercing assault on my ears. Thickness comes from around 200-330k depending on the snare used, the mic used, etc, and here you're not competing with the low end of the kick or the solid low end of the bass (100k apx.) A slight boost around 2k-4k (again, use your ears and keep in mind the guitars and vocals later on) and a slight boost around 7-8k (like 0.2dB-0.5dB) helps to create that space for the snare to poke its head out of the rest of the mix slightly with each hit. A HPf up to 80k to 120k will help define the quality of the snare's particular sense of "thickness", eliminating any excess signal in that range where it will only conflict and muddy up the kick.
    Typically I begin by getting my kick sound and then slowly working on the snare sound as I'm getting closer to getting the sound I want out of my kick. I do this in order to ensure my kick and snare make sonic sense together. If done in isolation often times you can get a kick and a snare that sound like they were recorded on separate kits and mixed each by separate people. Mixing isn't about perfecting a single sound source (guitar, vocal, kick, etc), its about enhancing single sound sources with the intention of sacrificing perfection in isolation in favor of cohesion in the context of the whole with all its parts. Once I have it where I want it more or less I start bringing in the OH's. Not always, but many times I do. However, often times, I go back and forth with that and mixing the kick and bass simultaneously, easing the snare in and then finding out how to get the OH's to bring fullness and high end crisp to the kit. ​
    Bass -

    Mixing Bass - The bass and kick drum are lovers, but they need their space or things just get messy. They're both "low-end" components, but that doesn't make their role in the rhythm section the same in terms of manipulating frequencies. The bass has two major frequency/textural strata that you need to consider--the "fat", physical and deep tonal layer as well as the sharp, crisp attack of the pick hitting the thick strings, which creates separation between notes instead of the illusion of a consistently humming low end melodic sound source. And even bass players who play with their fingers realize, or should, the importance of enhancing the attack which acts like the loud clap of thunder preceding the low rumbling sustain, which informs your ears that a single sound of thunder has just occurred. Without that "clap", all you'd hear is the contiguous and indiscreet sustain of a low end tone like a synth pad. Fattness comes from around 95-120k and that crisp--albeit often subtly--attack comes from around 680-800k. You can roll over everything below 60k if you like, again to keep away from the kick's rightful position in the sound spectrum, and roll off everything above 7k (or higher, all depending on certain factors already mentioned). A slight boost at 3k or so isn't a bad idea if your ears are telling you its needed. There is so little audio information captured in that frequency range anyhow that boosting it doesn't produce super dramatic results, but can give your bass sound a little more presence. After all its a melodic instrument. Rhythmic as it may be, the power of the bass is in its melodic properties as well which sync up or enhance the guitars and vocals which demand that kind of thick yet melodically discernible sonic nest in which guitars and vocals thrive and sound all the more powerful and present in the mix. ​
    Guitars -

    Mixing Guitars - There is no easy answer to this one, because I love mixing and experimenting with guitars in a mix, but I'll give you the basic idea:

    One guitarist in the band/mix - I always pan everything before even getting started EQ'ing elements, and while it will likely change here and there throughout the process, I like to pan my guitars (single guitars) left about 75-85%. What I like to do then is send the guitar track to a stereo bus where I use reverb and panning in a specific sort of way with the intention of creating space and a wider stereo image. I use a reverb where I can remove the input signal, meaning I completely cut out the dry guitar and mess with the reverbs parameters to get the "guitar ghost image" I'm looking for (using built in EQ, pre-delay, reverb length, etc), which I then pan right about 60%. The idea isn't to pan the guitar track left a certain amount and match it with the reverberated bus send. Some of the reverb needs to bleed left to cohere the effect and achieve the sense of space you can create using this "technique" or trick. I have a million things I do with multiple sends, sending buses to other stereo buses and automating delays and on and on that I could write a thousand page book on. But this should give you some ideas as to how you can get more out of a single guitar panned left without things feeling lob-sided or flat.
    NOTE! - When you're mixing, your master bus should have ZERO plug ins on it and it should never peak above -6k. Often times my transients are peaking there while my guitars are staying pretty consistent around -12k to -10k. And if I'm using bus sends I have to keep in mind that they add dB's to the master bus so I'll even stay lower than that if I'm using buses to congeal more than one guitar or a single guitar recorded using more than one mic (using compression, reverb, delay, occasionally tape emulators or plug-ins which emulate the Neve console's channel coloration/analog drive, etc). Mixing with compressors or limiters on the master bus is a huge mistake no matter what anyone tells you. Be patient and hone your skills as a mixing engineer, focusing on tonal balance, spatial placement, dynamics (especially preserving them by mixing at low volume and not peaking above -6k). Once you have a great sounding mix you can learn how to use compressors, equalizers, limiters and sub-harmonic enhancement plug-ins (not essential, but can be useful depending on the track) to make your relatively quiet (though balanced and clean mix) to punch you in the face with volume and pulsating dynamics preserved in the mix when done right and enhanced using the plenty of headroom you'll need to let a snare hit -0.1dB with the guitars blaring at -2dB and the vocals shining through the mastered track around -0.5dB. And its by learning how to effectively use limiters to achieve what sounds like +6dB, though never going above -0.1 or even -0.2dB. Limiters are commonly abused by impatient people completely devoid of any understanding concerning both the purpose of the limiter (compressor) and the function of its main paramenters (threshold, out ceiling, attenuation meter, compression ratios, soft/hard knee, attack speed, release speed, hold, make-up gain and so on). Here's an example of a song, first the mix, then the mastered version:

    Original mix:


    Mastered version:

    If you lose motivation mixing at low volume with all signals at least 6dB's below nominal just take a few minutes and listen to it with the volume cranked. Though not a quick-fix master preview of your mix, higher volume will help you keep interest in the mixing process, but don't overdo it. Mix at low levels, low enough so that you could essentially carry on a conversation with a person sitting next to you without much difficulty in hearing them speak. Besides better accuracy in balance and cohesion, mixing at low volume really trains your ear to detect subtleties in a mix, which in time and with experience will lead to knowing what solution you need to fix the issue (scoop frequency, pan harder/softer, attenuate threshold setting on compressors, decrease reverb lengths or EQ reverb sends, re-record audio and a thousand other ways of tackling mixing issues).
    If it weren't 3am I'd finish this post, but if you're interested I'd be happy to finish it and try to help you out as best as I can with what I know from my own experience suffering shitty mixes, not knowing how to even begin addressing issues to where I'm at now, which is hard to judge, but if you keep with it and indulge your curiosities and try out creative solutions and not to mention ask for advice from people who obsess over music, tracking, mixing and mastering. Mixing is one word that describes a process which is actually a multitude of processes each requiring an enormous amount of knowledge, experience, patience and genuine passion for learning how to be successful at it. Calling it 'mixing' is misleading. Its audio crafting, sonic sculpture which means knowing how to use complex and sometimes intimidating tools in order to create something whole from many disparate parts and making it sound as if it were the easiest thing in the world since a great mix is easy to listen to and makes people feel as if there couldn't be much to it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    -Jason Williams

  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member 56K, 100-125K, 450 K ??? Man, you must have incredible hearing.
  16. pcrecord

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

    I'm sure he meens 56hz and so on ;) human ear can catch anything pass 20khz and this is at a young age... ;)

    @pilsenaudiolounge : thanks for sharing your recipe of mixing. I should say that it may serve as an exemple but not as guide to mixing.
    No recipe works for every songs and every tracks. Because we all have different room acoustics, instruments, mic and preamps.
    The only thing that should dictate any mix techniques and/or adjustment is the content of the tracks. And nothing else that our ears should influence our decisions.
    As for your mix and master exemples, you've achived a good wall of sound. But I have problem to discern the individual instruments. I would have like it to breath more. But, I'm sure it's a trade of the music style...
  17. Josh Conley

    Josh Conley Active Member

    i think he copied and pasted that from that pascalis dudes website.
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Please don't stop.
  19. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Besides all the great info already presented...there is one other important thing that I don't believe anyone has mentioned.

    You say you are creating instrumentals, presumably all your own programming or performances?

    There is a psychological element that you need to think about.

    When we create something, we want it to be noticed. If a band has recorded, each member seems to want his or her part to be prominent in the mix. That's why it's usually a good idea to NOT have all the band members sitting around with input into the mixing process, and to have a neutral party mixing...unless a member or two is very aware of the phenomena, and know how to be objective with their own parts.

    If you are doing ALL the tracks...each track is going to be precious to you. "I spent a LOT of time and energy creating that track...and I want it to be HEARD!"

    Every track cannot be the predominant track...especially tracks that are in each others' frequency ranges. But, without those important musical element may be missing. That's where you have to decide which tracks can "sit back", but still be heard, and which tracks to "bring forward".

    Obviously, with hip-hop, want a good solid kick and bass. Everything else fits around those. Since you say they are instrumentals, there are no vocals. Do you plan to add vocals? If so, don't put another instrument that would be in your vocal range straight down the middle, where you plan to put the vocal. If not...since you are starting out with nothing but bass and kick down the middle, you can actually put one or two more prominent elements in the middle. Maybe something just above the bass, and sitting in the mid-frequency range, and something taking off into the higher range from there? That may be the most prominent melodic-type thing? Competing frequencies from the most important of other elements should be panned opposite each other. If you have even more elements that you want to use, but compete with any others, you have to decide which ones to be most precious about, and which to relegate to a "supporting role".

    My point is that you need to keep an open mind on what is best "for the song, as a whole", and be willing to relegate even some of your most hard-earned tracks to less prominence....if that is what makes the mix sound good.

    That is as much a part of mixing as the actual "nuts'n'bolts" of EQ, effects and anything else...especially if it is ALL your work.

    Just a thought, or two.

  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    Amen, brother.

    Regardless of whether you've done all the tracks, or are working with an artist or band who has done the tracks, the song itself is what should be driving the mix.

    It's hard to remain objective when you are doing everything yourself - writing, arranging, performing, engineering, mixing - those are a lot of hats to wear (ask me how I know) and it can be very difficult - but it's not impossible to do all those things. It's just very difficult to do all of those things successfully.

    You just have to try to remain as unbiased as you can to the individual tracks, no matter how well-played they are. You can have what may be your best lead guitar work ever, but that doesn't matter if it's crowding the other parts, and getting in the way of the song in its entirety.

    For me, the lead vocal line - in both performance and tone - is what is most important to me, because I'm a songwriter-vocalist. But I still have to have things supporting that performance. If you feature yourself as a Satriani or Yngwe, then of course, the lead guitar is likely your main focus, but, it still needs support from the other instrumentation around it...

    Everything should compliment everything else, and nothing should distract any one thing away from another. It's really not all that different from the approach of a cooking recipe. Everything has its place, (or should) and all ingredients are designed to work together to result in the final taste of whatever it is you are cooking. No one eats Cumin by itself, nor do people usually take a teaspoon of chili powder. But both are necessary ingredients to making a good chili. You just have to have the right relationship between those things and the other ingredients.

    Perhaps the best lesson I learned was through listening and analyzing classical/orchestral pieces. If they are done well, you can hear all the parts disntinclyt; the melody, counter melody, harmony, supporting foundation, intricate embellishments ( both noticeable and esoteric) yet no one thing really stands out.

    Listening to pieces like this has taught me a lot about definition, texture, space, width, tone and arrangement - that, when translated to working on music that is more rock/pop - has definitely improved my mixing chops, even though I'm not a great fan of classical. There may not be as many things going on with a stereotypical rock instrumentation setup as their is with an orchestra, but it's still very important that the instrumentation that is there be as balanced as possible, to have a final result that is balanced, listenable, and intelligent.

    That being said, all of the above is much easier to say than it is to actually do. ;)



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