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Request for Mix Comments and some advice

Hey guys, so glad I found this site today. I was hoping some of you would give me your opinions on this recording I did recently for my band.

For me personally I was pretty happy with the results. Sounded good on the monitors, sounded good in the car, sounded good on headphones.

Generally it sounded good to me until it was on rotate and a professionally produced CD came on, and there was the glaring difference. Now I wasn't expecting those results giving the equipment I have, but there were a few glaring differences that lead me to the following questions:

1) Listening side by side, the professional CD was pristine, clear, and crisp. Mine sounded boxy and dead compared to it. Although I thought it was good until I heard it side by side. Is this more a result of the tracking, mixing, or master stage, and does it have THAT much to do with my setup vs theres?

2) The overall volume of mine was noticeably lower. I did do my own quick mastering, threw some overall eq on it and hit it with a limiter, but i could only bring it so loud before it started destorting. So how do they get it that loud, whats the recommended overall level of the mix before bringing it in for mastering?

My basic setup is as follows.
Drums:
Kick - D112
Snare - SM57 (Top and Bottom)
HH - KSM32SL
Toms - 421s
OH - C1000s
Room - SM58

Guitars - PodXT
Bass - KSM32 and Direct

Vox - KSM32

I put light compression with my autocomm pros just to prevent any spikes while tracking.

All the mics go into my Mackie board for the preamps then into protools. I few mics go into my behringer ultragain tube preamp.

For the mix I pretty much do everything in protools with the default plugins that ship with it.

Ok so enough rambling, here is the link. It has 4 Songs.

;)

I appreciate any comments, and don't be afraid to be honest. I am hear to learn and improve.

Thanks again :)

Comments

Kev Wed, 01/03/2007 - 13:19
welcome

and welcome to recording and mixing

congrats for getting as far as you did before needing help

my suggestion is to find a pro or semi pro that uses your DAW (if you are using a DAW) and sit with them while they mix one of your songs

hopefully you can take the final mix as a session so you can analyse it at home and work out some of the tricks and methods

crawl, walk ... then run

read magazine articles
web sites
ask questions

learn learn learn
then
practice practice practice


but some simple tips just to start
not specifically in order but close

Pan
- learn how the pros make use of the pan pot
most music is done in stereo and so the simple pan is a staple prt of the diet

Hi Pass and Lo pass filters
- underestimated these days with all the fancy plugs that are available
but some simple filtering of the extremeties that are not a help can be a very quick and simple start to a mix

EQ
- basic and simple EQ can help and so to can the more complex pin point trouble shooter peaky EQs
difficult subject and hard to know when you have gone too far.
you get a little skill and then you will over do it.
this one never goes away no matter how skilled you get.
...
take it easy and double check

Reverb Return
- simple and exactly what is says
a stereo reverb return ... or a couple of them
keep the reverbs simple to start with
you will never stop fiddling here

Master channel limiting
- so hard this one as it is one of the trickiest areas to apply compression or limiting.
I have put it here in the list because back in the old days when things were hardware ... the cost of equipment meant you just could have this gear on every channel.
this is where that increase in overall RMS level will often come from.
this is also where it all goes wrong too easily

Sub Groups
- this is where small groups of audio can be put into stereo stems for simply mixing later on
it is also where different EQs and compression can be put on specific audio groups ... the Drum Sub Group with an SSL styled compressor.
this is where a lot of the modern sound comes from

I stop there as that's more than enough to get into lots of trouble
but I will just point out that another part of the modern sound comes from the extensive use of automation available today ... and the sheer amount of channels and plugs available in the one mixdown.

good luck

Kev Wed, 01/03/2007 - 13:57
I wouldn't use the autocomm pros

and would be happy to rely on the Limiter and comp that is in the basic ProTools bundle

do use the EQ1 filters

the newer digidesign EQ is much better sounding than the older one

sub groups
make groups for
Drums - include the drum verb
Vocals - include the vocal verb
Electric Guitars - that's if the track need wall of guitars type of sound.

I usually have bass guitar (DI and Micanmd sometimes room Mic)
on it's own and in it's own space
but always in relation to the drum ... kick drum

I often have the Lead vocal outside the vocal sub group ... BUT not always

Lead Guitar - your choice but I mostly have it in the Guitar group

Automation
even a basic PT LE can have automation that was beyond belief not so long ago


did you get maxim

try an EQ - Maxim - EQ - Maxim on the master
be very gentle with both the EQ and Maxim
rememebr gain structure
the set the first maxim for lower so the second EQ has head room
the second Maxim can be set for the final output up near -0dBFS

that should help to make some RMS volume on your demos

I can't down load the zip

SuprSpy79 Wed, 01/03/2007 - 14:41
When you refer to sub groups, is that the same thing as running all the guitars for example out to an aux input? For example I usually put the drums on bus 1-2 and set an aux input to bus 1-2 then i put my reverb on the aux. Is it better to compress the kit as a whole or in individual parts?

One remaining question. Where does that clarity come from in professional mixes, that shining bright crystal sound. (I know broad question)

Im still running LE5.2 with the 001 so im not sure if it has the maxim plugin.
can I still use plugins to do light compression while im tracking to avoid the autocomms? Is there something I could upgrade to that would do a better job (if I sold those)

try http://www.myspace.com/aeonianrock

its streaming so obviously the quality suffers.

Kev Thu, 01/04/2007 - 03:36
in protools the bus to 1-2 and back through an aux input is the way to create a sub group
yes

" Is it better to compress the kit as a whole or in individual parts ? "
there is no single answer to that
I do both ... depending on what I think is needed

I do tend to have a limiter on the snare for the over heavy hit ... but sometime I may edit / replace those hits
I probably always have a comp/limiter on the drum sub group

That Glossy Modern sound you talk about does come from the whole mix technique
BUT
the mastering process can be the final touch if silk.

LE5.2 with the 001
I think you should look to 6.4 ... on XP or Mac

No Maxim
... try an EQ - heavy comp - EQ - Limiter

At 24 bit you have some leeway
there is no point to running plugs while recording drums ... or anything else
it won't change anything

when the audio enters the 001
it is digitised and so all the work is already done ... adding a comp now will not change the way the digitisation is done
if you have quality analog outboard
then sure
use it while tracking

problem is that you need to know what you want and how to do it
once you have made the mistake you can not remove it

don't be scared to track to the 001 with nothing but Mic ... or Mic and Mic-pre
good Mic choice and Mic placement

put the plugs on later

SuprSpy79 Thu, 01/04/2007 - 05:15
For that big rock drum sound for example. (which is what I usually do) Do you usually try compressing the parts or the whole? (im going to play around with this anyway just curious)

I can't run 6.4 on my Mac cuz i still have OS 9.2 and I'm afraid my G4 want run as well if I go to OSX. So I was considering moving my 001 interface over to XP and then upgrading to 6.4, but my concern was being able to run atleast the same amount of plugins and being able to copy over my plugins since they are on mac (and old versions). Im debating whether to save up for a 002 or just save and wait for the 003 so I don't but something that is outdated.

I am currently working in 24 Bit and bouncing to 16 from the mastering session.

when you say heavy comp, are you saying to basically eq the mix, squish it hard, eq a little more, then limit it to the final volume? What do you look for when you eq a master, pull out bad frequencies, brighten things up? (I know it all depends on what the final mix came in as, but im just speaking in general)

I usually track everything straight to the 001 except the kick, snare, and vocals, I just worry about that one snare hit or vocal line that clips, should I not be as concerned and just go in uncompressed?


Thanks again soooo much for taking the time with these replies, it is very insightful.

RemyRAD Thu, 01/04/2007 - 16:58
Geez, all four cuts sounded very nice, very professional to me. Really nice Christian rock-and-roll. I don't know why yours would sound any less in a side-by-side comparison? I would love to know who the side comparison was? And in what context do you mean side-by-side? What was the playback source equipment? Their stuff? Your stuff? Maybe his is too squeaky and crunchy? He would have to rolloff plenty of high-end to make yours sound dull and boxy. I just love other idiots that make us question our own talents. It sounds to me like you are doing everything right. I think God told you what to do??? Of course everything is quite subjective and I would rather hear popular contemporary Christian music sound a little rounder and Fuller when singing about Jesus Christ and God! Somehow if it was a little too crispy and crunchy, sterile and bright, it would make me think it was more from the place down under?? (No offense to my Southern Hemisphere friends) I mean, don't we all want a fat sounding God? Who wants a skinny crispy sterile God anyhow?

Mother sound
Ms. Remy Ann David

SuprSpy79 Thu, 01/04/2007 - 17:38
RemyRAD wrote: Geez, all four cuts sounded very nice, very professional to me. Really nice Christian rock-and-roll. I don't know why yours would sound any less in a side-by-side comparison? I would love to know who the side comparison was? And in what context do you mean side-by-side? What was the playback source equipment? Their stuff? Your stuff? Maybe his is too squeaky and crunchy? He would have to rolloff plenty of high-end to make yours sound dull and boxy. I just love other idiots that make us question our own talents. It sounds to me like you are doing everything right. I think God told you what to do??? Of course everything is quite subjective and I would rather hear popular contemporary Christian music sound a little rounder and Fuller when singing about Jesus Christ and God! Somehow if it was a little too crispy and crunchy, sterile and bright, it would make me think it was more from the place down under?? (No offense to my Southern Hemisphere friends) I mean, don't we all want a fat sounding God? Who wants a skinny crispy sterile God anyhow?

Mother sound
Ms. Remy Ann David

Well thank you for the nice comments :) I was comparing it to The Afters. I will post a link later with mine and the afters. I re-did the mastering tonight with some of Kevs suggestions so I want to go check that now and see how it compares.

EDIT:

Ok I uploaded 3 tracks. My Original, My Remaster, and The Afters track.
;)
My References were done on my laptop and in my car. I have yet to bring it into the studio to compare it yet.

Kev Fri, 01/05/2007 - 13:23
SuprSpy79 wrote: For that big rock drum sound for example. (which is what I usually do) Do you usually try compressing the parts or the whole? (im going to play around with this anyway just curious)
both
difficult to explain
I always to make the drum kit sound like one kit
but that's just me
unlike when I do techno ... the drums are just individual
the drum Kit is made up of multiple mics and that's where the trouble starts
multi mics on the one instrument (the kit) have the usual multi mic issues
so the individual drum processing is with that in mind

I often have a HiPass- EQ- comp/Limit (usually limit)
automation ( comp/limit both input and output, it's all about gain structure )
the effect/reverb send is either pre or post (yeah, sometimes pre)
then on the group - EQ - Limit

the individual process is often about fault and group mic and close mic issues
the group is where I do try to create the over all glue

I can't run 6.4 on my Mac cuz i still have OS 9.2 and I'm afraid my G4 want run as well if I go to OSX. So I was considering moving my 001 interface over to XP ...
I'd say try it

I use my 001's on XP
BUT
I mainly just track on the 001s when at a Location
and then mix on HD
... a new PC with XP and the 6.4 should give thing a very good improvement over where you are now

I don't know your plug-set but all the usuals should be there

when will we see a 003
???
we just don't know that it will happen
but I see your point

new PC with grunt is quite cheap and unless you are keen for some of the new PT features then you could be fine staying at 6.4


... when you say heavy comp, are you saying to basically eq the mix, squish it hard, eq a little more, then limit it to the final volume?
yep
close enough

What do you look for when you eq a master, pull out bad frequencies, brighten things up? (I know it all depends on what the final mix came in as, but im just speaking in general)
hopefully bad frequencies are already gone but there can be some build up
...
yes brighten and give the overall final feel
the comps and limit can change the feel and here you can fine tune

BUT ... this is where you are attempting to master at the same time
IF you are to go to genuine mastering then I'd leave the master a little free-er


I usually track everything straight to the 001 except the kick, snare, and vocals, I just worry about that one snare hit or vocal line that clips, should I not be as concerned and just go in uncompressed?

If you have outboard that is truly up to the task then I'd say use it on tracking
BUT
you have to know that you are getting it right
it can't be undone

if the gear is ordinary then I'd say go straight to the 001 in 24 bit and always have some digital margin at the end of the take
if you are watching and there is only one insignificant over ... then I'd keep the take and do a repair

...
lastly
get some drum kit input from Remy
but I'm sure Remy will start you off with good mics, good placement, API mic-pres and a good room
then the trick is to find a good drummer

...
then it's all good

SuprSpy79 Fri, 01/05/2007 - 14:37
ok will play around with the drums and grouping. Ive got time to experiment.

I just have the Waves Gold Bundle (I think v3) and the default digidesign plugins that shipped with it. I may just buy new plugins or try the free ones if I move to XP. I guess it won't hurt to sped the $50 to upgrade to 6.4 for the PC and just see what happens.

I'd love to get some drum imput from Remy. My biggest problem is the flat boxy sound. I like the big over produced Modern Rock Drum sound. I do have a good drummer so that is all taken care of :)

What are API Mic Pres? and As many small studios, my room sucks lol.

RemyRAD Fri, 01/05/2007 - 18:00
SuprSpy79, while I found your first example quite good, I find your second example every bit as good. The example you posted as a reference of your competition of another contemporary Christian rocker was quite nice and quite distorted numerous times throughout. So now I understand you want to get your musical word of the Lord to others by presenting them with idiotic over-the-top loudness wars is counterproductive to your cause. Some people like screaming preachers others like the soft-spoken ones. I like the preachers that speaks softly and carry a large Bible.

Regarding your drum sounds.... Your mix, your placement, the added ambience make for a very nice mix of the drums. But I understand what you are trying to achieve. More fat. More snap. More zing. And ultimately punchy! What to do with what you have?

While you're Mike selection is quite adequate and you have a reasonable Mackie Board, I would have thought better results from the drums? I like a fat and snappy sound with plenty of zing on drums also. Mackie Mike preamps are different from others in that they run at a fixed 20 DB gain which keeps their consistency of sound while allowing greater headroom and less distortion since the gain adjustment is made after the Mike preamps. In some ways this hampers the adjustability and tonal quality of the microphone preamp. It does however provide a more consistent sound overall and is a good scheme for people who are less than intimately technically savvy of how to change the sound, headroom and overload characteristics other microphone preamps offer with their heavy use of negative feedback for gain trim.

Much of this also has to do with engineering technique. You are obviously already competent but desire a different twist to what you are currently obtaining. I try to go for the big open drum sound for tracking, with minimal intervention, first. If I don't like my drum sound during tracking, I'm not going to like it when it comes time to mix.

When it comes time to start mixing, I push everything up first and establish a good basic clean overall mix, with no nothing added. It's only after that I start adding processing and begin tweaking the drums. On the bass drum, I'll frequently invert phase, add a little high pass filtering, crank up some midrange, stick it into a limiter, followed up with a good downward expander or gate, maybe some more EQ? If I want a fat snare drum, I'll use an MD421 but usually a SM57. Want more snap? AKG451 or Shure SM 81 underneath the snare drum with pads on and faze inverted. 57's or 421's on Tom Tom's, high pass filtered and Gates (not Bill). More EQ for taste and tone. If the guy has nice sizzling cymbals, I'll use U87's or 414's for overhead. But if his cymbals sounds like he is banging on trash can lids, I'll use small diaphragm condensers like SM 81's, KM 84/86's. I'll run the overheads lower over the kit in a less than desirable room and run them a little higher up, if the acoustics warrant it. Sometimes I'll even compress the BeJesus out of them (which might be counterproductive for you?), even gating them at times.

But the first thing I always do before starting anything, I take out my little package of my friendly reference CDs. I use them before and during a session to keep my frame of reference. Listening to your own music does not provide a frame of reference unless of course you have been hugely popular and are living off of your royalties. Do not let loudness be your guide. God should let you know which engineers are really false prophets. Even if they are making a killing? We'll cross that threshold some other time. I am never actually concerned on whether my mixes are the loudest. I only care if they sound good and can stand up to my favorite reference CDs. A lot of people say my mixes sound like they have already been mastered? Maybe that's because I've been using the wrong frame of reference CDs? After all, they are all ready mastered. They do not however look like a solid block in audio software either.

Unfortunately, some of this does have something to do with the microphone preamps at hand. I believe I get a far better sound when I am tracking with API and Neve. What's an API? APIs started off in the mid-1960s in Farmington New York and was known as Automated Processes Inc.. They were one of the early American console manufacturers and the first to introduce an automated console in 1972. There microphone preamps and equalizers are legendary. They utilize a transformer coupled microphone preamp, utilizing an all discrete transistor operational amplifier, used throughout the console. Their equalizers were all resistor/capacitor networks and had no inductors. They were sweet and fat sounding and still in use today and are still highly sought after even though the company has gone in and out of business and changed hands numerous times. I was good friends with the previous owners Paul and Kevin. You just don't make a fortune making consoles that cost a fortune.

The same pertains to the early Rupert Neve consoles, designed and manufactured from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, before he went out of business in the Company changed hands numerous times. Again transformer coupled microphone preamps and different types of equalizers that relied on inductor/capacitor networks. Again, a legendary sound unto itself. A good part of the great sound that came out of the Rupert Neve consoles was the excessive use of terrible sounding transformers that made all the difference in this award-winning sound. You went through something like about 10 from microphone input to bus output, for a single channel.

There are plenty of other products out there that can certainly outperform both of those antiquated desks, with their coloration, noise and distortion, all of which combined together to make everybody think that you are a better engineer than you really are. But it still comes down to technique. Because it's not what you've got but what you do with it. So how can I help you become an award-winning engineer? Practice? Again, having a reference to start from will allow you to mimic the sounds that you hear when they're coming out of your control room monitors. Does this mean you should track with equalization and compression??? Sure! It sounds good going in it will sound good coming out. Afraid of not being able to undo something? God works in strange ways. After all, Don Moen was just a young jingle writer when we worked together, before he became a famous contemporary Christian artist. His greatest Christian hits are rearrangements of many of the jingles we did back in 1978!

So I'm not really saying that you should change anything that you are doing. I'm not. I think your product is a good commercial product that is competently produced. You don't know how our what the other recording was made on nor do you have the same technique of engineering that your adversary may have? I think either way, our Lord will be pleased with your efforts?

Peace from one of the chosen engineers
Ms. Remy Ann David

SuprSpy79 Fri, 01/05/2007 - 18:23
Wow Remy, thats for the amazing reply. It definately makes sense.
You hit the nail on the head that I'm looking for a more Fat, more snap, more zing, and more punchy drum sound.

I definately think I need to work on my mic placement a little more, a lot of the times I will spend some time micing the kick and give up cuz I cant find anything I like. I think I also need to spend some more time with reference cds, since sometimes I feel lost like im not sure what i really want it to sound like.

I was considering selling the mackie and investing in some good preamps instead, your thoughts? I really only use the board for the preamps, since I mix everything in the computer.

Cant say I have ever heard of Don Moen, but I will definately check him out.

Gotta go feed my daughter, ill check back in soon.

RemyRAD Fri, 01/05/2007 - 18:55
I'm a hopelessly practical engineer. Sure, I have my preferences when it comes to consoles but because I'm a pay for engineer, I'll work on any desk that's put before me, good or bad. That doesn't mean I won't bitch through an entire session when I'm asked to use a TASCAM 2600. I hate that piece of crap! Don't get me started.

I've made some terrific recordings on Mackie 1604 boards. Not horrible microphone preamps and mediocre equalization can actually make for some good recordings. I actually prefer those over the Allen and Heath equivalent. Soundcraft sounds a little better to me, good for rock-and-roll but their preamps don't have enough gain for some microphones.

You were doing good and with what you've got. I think you can get what you want with your current tools? I actually thought the Mackie sounded relatively close to my API 312/3124 series preamp in a side-by-side multi-track recorded jazz recording shoot out. Sure, the API sounded a tad sweeter on her vocal but without an appreciable difference enough that she didn't sound wonderful through either preamp without any equalization except the high pass filter on the microphone. So my thoughts are, no, I don't think you need to replace your console? You merely need to work on your engineering technique. You will get there for sure if you start using good references when you start the process.

Next!
Ms. Remy Ann David

SuprSpy79 Sat, 01/06/2007 - 14:39
Remy/Kev,

Thanks for the input, I spent some time today applying some of the techniques you mentioned and some other experiments. I basically broke out of my box of typical things to try something new and Im super happy with the results so far.

this song does not have vocals yet and I have to clean up the performance, but I posted a demo so you can here the difference.

This was tracked from the same sessions as the other ones.

http://www.aeonianrock.com/audio/FunkyMunky.mp3
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