mix critique First Post: New Audio Engineer

Brxdsky

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Location
Massachusetts
This is my first post on the forums. Please excuse any mistakes I make.

I am 19 a second year college student, pursuing my bachelors degree in Audio Engineering and a Live Sound Certification. As of May 2020, I began doing freelance mixing, with rates going for $10 per song. I figured since I'm charging $10/song, no one can complain about it if I make some beginner's mistakes. Since then I have worked on around 50+ tracks and complete 2 entire projects. In the last week, I have been hired by a local studio to be their in-house engineer based upon the need for an engineer and my education. I have been able to cement myself by designing hybrid mixing workflows and improving the setup (the studio was previously doing everything in-the-box despite having two full racks of gear and a historical console). This studio is owned by a prominent figure in the music industry, and a lot of my work will be recording artists and having their music distributed through a deal with Sony. Two days ago I had a recording session with Ol' Dirty Bastard's nephew o_O. I am slightly nervous for this as while I have improved so much as a mixing and recording engineer in the last 3 months (which were spent learning at school and continuing to do freelance mixes for $10), I remain doubtful of my own abilities. I don't expect anyone to have all the answers for me. What I am looking for is critiques and feedback of a mix I did 3 months ago. It was part of the first complete project I have done, and it was a proud moment for me. Once the project was released, I was embarrassed. Soundcloud actually DESTROYED this song. This is an entirely separate issue from the mix, but I am dogsh*t at mastering.

Mastering Issue: I have been mastering myself by exporting my mix leaving -3dBFS of headroom from 0 in Pro Tools. Then I bring the song into a mastering session in Pro Tools, using minimal processing: EQ (cuts around low end, boosts on high end), light compression (Waves SSL G-Comp) and a Limiter (Waves L1+ UltraMaximizer). I am told that Soundcloud's mastering levels are from -8LUFS to -14LUFS, so I mastered the whole project to have a dynamic range of -14LUFS - the waveform looks like a brick. Very lost on this, and any advice or tips would be appreciate. One thing I noticed after the fact was that the masters are .wav files while Soundcloud converts everything to .mp3, greatly compressing the file. I've been searching for ways to achieve a dynamic range of -8LUFS to -14LUFS without creaking waveforms that look like bricks, and won't sound puny on Soundcloud after Soundcloud add its own processing (jerks).

Things you should know about this song: It was mixed entirely in-the-box. It was recorded by a down south rapper, who has since been incarcerated (not even sure if he's heard it). It relies heavily upon autotune. Knowing what I know about compression now, I have realized that vocals with an overall ratio of 10:1 are definitely over-compressed. Since then I have began using lighter channel & bus compression in my mixes.

My Signal Chain for each vocal looks like this:
Mono Vocal Track with an output being sent to a bus: | Waves Tune Real-Time | REQ6 (Subtractive EQ: low-cut with a cutoff freq. of 73 Hz, peaking EQ to reduce mud at 350 Hz) | RDe-esser | RCompressor (Quick attack & release, ratio of 2:1) | 304EQ (2 dB boost at 3.5kHz, 1 dB boost of treble) | BF76 (Ratio of 4:1) |
SENDS: 2 different reverbs and 1/4 Note Delay (H-Delay)
Vocal Bus: | REQ6 (Minimal Boosts at 3kHz and 10kHz) | SSL G-Comp (Ratio of 4:1, attack of 1 ms, release of 1.2 s) | Ozone Stereo Imager (40% width) | RDe-esser again

I attached the final master, and the reference track.
Please feel free to tell me any wrong moves I made and feel free to be as critical as possible. I am searching for guidance, and I wouldn't be opposed to having my work trashed as long as it serves as an important lesson to helping my career.

The Soundcloud Version (embed isn't working for me): Rated R Da Chief - My City



 

Attachments

  • My CIty Master v1.mp3
    1.7 MB · Views: 173
  • Rated R Da Chief 07.26.20 (3) - ref.mp3
    1.7 MB · Views: 166

pcrecord

Quality recording seeker !
Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2013
Location
Quebec, Canada
Some language to break RO's rules...

BTW 10 dollar a song will put you in trouble when musicians will start their part over a million times.. Better go 5$ an hour or something like that.. ;)
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
The master sounds pretty good. Its a bit cloudy in the midrange, there is some masking. Not sure the imager is necessary. Id try to clear out some space of the various instruments so there isn't congestion in the mids.
 

Brxdsky

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2020
Location
Massachusetts
The master sounds pretty good. Its a bit cloudy in the midrange, there is some masking. Not sure the imager is necessary. Id try to clear out some space of the various instruments so there isn't congestion in the mids.
Thank you for your feedback. Usually when working with Hip Hop, the artist doesn't have access to their instrumental stems so I'm forced to mix using a stereo mp3. I have since added a vocal sidechain to my formula using the Waves F6 Dynamic EQ to add some light compression around~2-3kHz. Stereo Imager I've been using to give my vocals more depth. When listening to popular hip hop songs, I find that engineers are using vocals that have a lot of depth. For example: This Is America by Childish Gambino loses most of the power the vocals have when listened to in mono. It's either that or just panning, but I've been using it and no one has complained about it. I'm not sure if this causes issues with the mix as the Imager is added on the vocal bus, which is post all of the aux sends per track.
Thank you. Peace.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
Thank you for your feedback. Usually when working with Hip Hop, the artist doesn't have access to their instrumental stems so I'm forced to mix using a stereo mp3. I have since added a vocal sidechain to my formula using the Waves F6 Dynamic EQ to add some light compression around~2-3kHz. Stereo Imager I've been using to give my vocals more depth. When listening to popular hip hop songs, I find that engineers are using vocals that have a lot of depth. For example: This Is America by Childish Gambino loses most of the power the vocals have when listened to in mono. It's either that or just panning, but I've been using it and no one has complained about it. I'm not sure if this causes issues with the mix as the Imager is added on the vocal bus, which is post all of the aux sends per track.
Thank you. Peace.

You can use ozone or even better RX from izotope to isolate instruments and groups from a 2 track, so you can add in more custom tailored samples and effects settings. Its really a game changer..

Wideners can cause loss of solidity to the vocals, and be phasey.

A perhaps more artifact free way to do this is to use doubler by waves or izotope or whoever, and pan the effect send left and right to your liking, setting 1 side to -3 to 6 cents, the other side to +3 to 6 cents.

This gives you a wide vocal effect thats thick too, and doesn't compromise the solidity (phase) or eq of the vocal in the center. It collapses well to mono as well.
 

Davedog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2001
Location
Pacific NW
I dislike most "widening effects" ....There are tried and true techniques from back-in-the-day that work so much better. Yes, it takes longer....

For what its worth I used to used the widening tools in my library.

I stopped.
 

kmetal

Kyle P. Gushue
Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2009
Location
Boston, Massachusetts
I’m with Dave.
To add... The best widening setting is a unique sound panned hard left or hard right.
The best effect is a mono instrument put through a Bricasti reverb on the master bus.
I probably won't have a bricasti anytime soon, but i did spring for Liquid Sonics 7th heaven reverb plug. Its an ir/convolution plug with IRs from all the stock presets on the bricasti, and they put in control parameters in the pluggin interface to adjust them. Its kinda like a sampled bricasti.

I doubt its nearly as good, but it did seem ti have to notable things going for it compared to other pluggins. 1. Really good small/meduim rooms 2. Really clean and clear long verb tails, really smooth tails.

Id be curious to hear your thoughts on it Chris, if you ever get a chance to listen to the demos since you have experience with the real thing.(https://www.liquidsonics.com/software/seventh-heaven-professional/)
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I'm really surprised that as a second year Degree student you're still stuck on this stuff - I'd seriously question what you are getting for your money if your course leaves you this much in the dark. Here in the UK, your course would also have business modules and your pricing system would have been the subject of amusement.

Money wise, there are two choices. You are doing this purely for fun, and the payment is really beer money. You really can't believe that doing a whole song is worth a Big Mac Meal? Nowadays, $10 gets what? A couple of coffees. You have a decision to make. Are you good? Are your clients going to go away happy telling everyone who recorded or mastered their epic release, or are they using you because you're so cheap, it's best to take advantage.

Remember - if you start cheap, and get known for being cheap, then you won't have any clients willing to pay more for what they used to get cheap. You need to get a business head quickly. Charging per hour can create issues too, of course - they'll want to see you working hard and running around even if you charge $5 an hour. A good technique is to charge for the benefit you give. What exactly do they want, and what can you do for them? Can you, for example, make the bad singer sound better - as in, in tune, in time and sounding nice? This is what they are paying for - the benefit. IS your recording effort really worth just a Macdonalds meal? I like this alignment with food. If I take (or took, re Covid) four people out for a meal - we're looking at what? £80 perhaps a hundred for an Indian or Chinese meal. So they think your recording skills and equipment and your time is worth less? Really? It might be better to do a freebie for a first recording, but let them know the freebie is at least a hundred dollars/pounds worth of work normally - they get it for free this time. If they want another, it's a hundred. If they don't come back, they didn't appreciate your work enough. With people who genuinely don't know - I'll sometimes use a different system. Lets say they want something recorded - one song, and they want me to sort it. One recently involved a piano track from Boston in America and a singer here in the UK. Singer really nice but green, so I quoted £250 for the recording and a mix. The piano was not very good, to be honest, but we recorded the track and she sat with me for three hours and we got her part sorted and laid down to the piano supplied as a .wav. At the end, she asked what I thought - I told her the voice now sounded fine, but ........... and she chirped in "but the piano is not good, is it?" She asked if I could fix it - and I said I'd have to re-record it, but I could do it . "I'm happy to pay" and because she now knew how good I'd made her voice, she was resigned to the cost. It's down to trust and value for money - it does NOT have to be cheap.
 

LarryQualm2

Chuck
Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2015
Location
Metro-Detroit, MI
I agree with paulears, ..if it was 1980. ME's are at deaths gate career wise these days. My recommendation first for the OP is to seek another line of work, not one that your ride high on, maybe sitting at the bow of a sinking ship. Known for being cheap? Known for being great? Does either one matter when your food bowl is empty? There were great paper draftsmen at one time too. I guess I can keep what I have to say short because there is not much to say. Career wise, aim elsewhere. You're in a dying market.

Some further reading: https://recording.org/threads/the-death-of-the-mastering-engineer.57182/
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
I think eternalsound has a point. We are introducing huge numbers of young people into the media industry as producers, when there is no work for most of the. Loads of my old students work in the media, but NOT doing what I taught them. The biggest role is teaching. Teaching the next era of students what they learned and never used. The most successful money and career wise are doing management, not production. I use my skills to create projects for customers, the whole thing, so I suppose for some I’m a record company in old fashioned terms. For others I’m a production company. In precovid times we’d record, shoot video, market, produce stage shows and video those too to sell the next. Multiskilling gone mad. A one stop shop. The crazy thing are colleges and unis churning out people in th3 h7ndreds on poor courses with poor teaching by people who have never been in the business. I know a world class big name lighting designer. Toured the world with one well known band for years. He gave it up to run a garden lighting company because it’s was lights and gardening, his passion. He makes more money from lighting roses than rockers!

students now have nobody to record, in basic studios, with a market that pays tiny sums per stream, now CDS are gone. I had 2000 streams on Spotify last month, which will buy me a coffee, just.
 

Davedog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2001
Location
Pacific NW
Thank God I'm not in this for the money. I like producing. Since I retired from my real world gig, I get to do that in my own room. Most of my clients pay my fee. Since I don't have any real overhead, it keeps me in walking around money. I take points but the pandemic has slowed the live shows which is where most sell their merch......

Now and then you run across a young person who has the talent and the fortitude necessary and you think (if you're old) this kid would have made it in the old days when the tree was ripe.
 

paulears

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
Lowestoft - UK
The ones who are successful now are musicians, technologists and business people wrapped up into one - who can do everything. Luckily for me, my entire career has been based around doing lots of things adequately, none exceptionally - and it's rare I ever have to say no to interesting jobs. My favourite was when the phone rang and somebody had been given my name. He mentioned a TV celebrity I've worked with a few times and asked if I could go to Pinewood Studios and set her on fire for a TV programme. I said yes, of course!
 
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