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Getting past "the tricks" - pan & doubling/tripling

Perhaps wrongly titled. Perhaps I mean 'creating room so the tricks don't have to be used'.

What I am talking about is queries like the recent query on recording vocals and getting that warm, fat sound.

The answer given was to triple the vocal, one left, one right, one centre.

Or when I record guitar. On a tight timescale, myself and a lot of others just record loads of it. More guitar - especially distorted electric - often means better sound.

Doing this can of course give a much bigger, fuller sound - but at the expense of the stereo mix. As we know, more is rarely better. With jmm22's recent thread on masking and my theory on the limited areas of space in a mix in the response, it got me thinking about creating room.

When I'm preparing a mix for the balancing stage, I'll go through and carve out everything I don't need. Usually in a fairly major way, on group tracks, using a pretty good equalizer so I can just haul out chunks of subsonic noise and top end - in this way I use my usual linear thinking on mixes and say I am looking at a frequency range spectrum, I will call those ranges:

Low - LowMid - Mid - HighMid - High

For Kick drum I'll carve away everything but low and maybe allow it a little click in Mid. For electric guitars I'll carve away all but Mid. Etc etc. (On a side note, I'd love to know a way to be able to genuinely A/B this in Cubase - by bouncing those tracks down via my MP and making 2 big groups I can *almost* do this). The effect for me is a cleaner and more toned, buff mix.

Tricks like the ones mentioned above work in a converse way - they are adding real overpowering depth to certain parts. I guess they work more in the pan and perception areas of the mix cloud, but are there alternatives that offer more reductive, artistic ways of doing the same kind of things?

One of the tricks I use once I'm through the large-scale carving is making 'indents' for things. For example if a vocal won't bed down, increasing a little in the instrumental mix at 2-3k and reducing it in the vocal, or vice versa. Again, this seems a very heavy-handed way of creating impact.

What are tricks that other people use to try and create space, or add impact? Are there other ways people can suggest to make these less destructive to overall timbre?


soapfloats Wed, 12/29/2010 - 00:22
Jeemy -

I struggle w/ all of your points at one juncture or another.
What I've found is these are really just fixes.
Unless you're handed the tracks, you can avoid being destructive by starting at the beginning.

I am not implying that you're not aware of this - only mentioning my recent observations of my own work.

You can get a lot of space/impact from performance and BLEED during tracking.
As one might expect, my best projects are those that, when tracked, need little or no mixing to sound good. (Then the task is making good mix = great mix)

Bottom line : I really don't have a better answer than the one above.
Sometimes the techniques you mentioned work, sometimes they don't.
I just try and make sure I do my homework so as to provide tracks that the mix engineer (me or another) has as little to worry about (FIX) as possible.

I've screwed myself enough times...

Jeemy Wed, 12/29/2010 - 01:02
Heh lol its not a problem for me. More trying to create a discussion point. I will always work, for want of a better term, 'destructively' - I understand or believe that when using EQ, removing a little is far more phase-friendly than adding a little.

But I see so much of these 'more tracks, more, more' tricks that I wondered if we could perhaps build a little library of other approaches. In no way do I mean a sparse mix, I just mean for example:

- My vocal isn't present enough
- Triple it and pan left and right


- My vocal isn't present enough
- The vocal meat is at 3,000 - drop that in the 2-bus and push it in the vocal group.

I'm sorry if you struggle with my points, I don't mean to be unclear, but my posting here is usually conducted out of working hours - which are studio hours, which are midday to midnight, and beyond. Please assist if you think I can make things clearer.

soapfloats Wed, 12/29/2010 - 13:36
No, I was unclear. I didn't mean to imply that I struggled w/ your points, just that I struggled w/ using some of the mentioned techniques to achieve the effect I want.
Regarding the vox, I definitely prefer frequency slotting to doubling or tripling. Getting good double/triple tracks can be tricky for some vocalists.

I used to wash out the kick like you described, but if I can get minimal snare bleed, I love to let the top-end of the kick breathe...
Again, I'm turning more and more to tracking techniques to improve my mixes, than mixing techniques. That said, there's almost nothing I won't try in a mix to get the job done.