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midi mixdown techniques?

a question for the professionals, if i may...

okay, so you've finished your arrangement, a combination of midi and audio parts and you're about to start the actual mixing process. first you have to mixdown your midi to an audio track. i'm talking here about computer-based recording but i suppose the question would be the same for tape-based recording too.

do you mix down all the midi tracks from one module on to one stereo track? or do you solo each part individually and record it on to its own track? advantage of the latter is that you can then eq/adjust each midi sound individually; advantage of the former is that you are recording exactly the sound you are hearing (and have presumably enjoyed up to this point) and you are not creating lots of extra tracks each of which, presumably adds its own tiny amount of noise.

which way do you do it? seems to me the separate tracks technique gives the most flexibility; but every time i do that, when i play all the separated (now audio) tracks back together it sounds totally different (and not necessarily what i wanted)...

a similar question goes for mixing down audio from midi drum parts -- do you mix down each of the drum sounds separately (bass drum, snare, etc) even though, presumably you *almost* had the sound you wanted already...?

thanks for any pointers.



Member for
16 years 6 months

DaveRunyan Sat, 01/15/2005 - 12:14

I do a lot of this. I always solo each midi track and make an individual audio track for it. I then treat each one like a real instrument such as eq, effects, compression and so forth. I don't do any volume control or mixing in the midi parts. I make sure I get the strongest signal to my converters as possible for each track. I am totally digital and have good stuff so I don't worry about noise much. I do all the mixing in the audio stage of things. I even do it for each drum part if I am using sequenced drums. This is a lot of work but it pays off in the long run in my opinion. The more control I have at mix down the happier I am.

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19 years 7 months

Kev Sat, 01/15/2005 - 13:53

I do both techniques and either can work.

One thing to note is that when you convert your Midi part to audio (never lose the Midi info as you will want it again one day)

The audio part has just become the back up for a faulty Synth or a soft-synth that did't upgrade.

It happens,
Synths do break down and you may not be able to fix it.
Soft-synths do vanish as you up grade your system.

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16 years 6 months

DaveRunyan Sat, 01/15/2005 - 14:59

Yes! Keep the midi tracks! Always................. In fact I constantly save bundles of the whole project I am working on and burn then to CD or back them up to an external HD. I don't like to take chances on loosing anything.

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51 years 5 months

chundle Mon, 01/17/2005 - 11:26

certainly, i definitely always keep my midi tracks till the end!

"I am totally digital"

DaveRunyan do you have digital audio out on your midi equipment too so that when you mixdown to audio you get no signal loss either? because on all my equipment i only have analog audio-out, so once i've recorded all my midi tracks separately as audio (sometimes 16 tracks, most of them stereo, making a total of 32), plus my rhythm tracks (up to 10 tracks once all the different drum parts are recorded separately), and, though my equipment is not at all noisy, it eventually builds up into a fair amount of noise (though not so bad that i can't use it, just to my perfectionist ears) going on in the background...

now that i've written it all out, it occurs to me that perhaps what i should do is be more selective about which tracks i keep as individuals....!

Member for
19 years 7 months

Kev Mon, 01/17/2005 - 12:16

and you can sub mix groups of parts into stereo pairs.

you haven't told us how you record an individual track.

if you use a mixing desk and record a single synth via the main output then it is possible you have an unessessary build up of noise floor.
Perhaps having a dedicated DI/gain box for direct recording to a single track so you can optimise gain structure for each pass.

seems like it is involved but it doesn't take long to know you gear and you can set these things up fast

using gates and silence stripping between phrases helps and the techniques bring different results.

ALL digital .. good but that may not be the best in the long run.

A bass sound out through an amp and recorded with a mic ... with a noise gate will bring a very different result than if you go all digital.

It's all choice ... that's producing

Learning all the tricks is one thing BUT knowing which to use and where is the art form.

Member for
51 years 5 months

chundle Mon, 01/17/2005 - 13:31

"if you use a mixing desk and record a single synth via the main output then it is possible you have an unessessary build up of noise floor."

hey kev

yes, this is what i do -- so you're suggesting actually using DI straight into my sound card inputs and not use the mixing board at all.

(actually come to think of it i may be able to do this directly into the sound card input, i think the gain may be enough -- using an echo darla and cubase by the way).

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17 years 6 months

maintiger Mon, 01/17/2005 - 20:41

back in the days of portastudios and limited tracks I used to run the midi instruments as midi from their modules into the mixing board which also received my acoustic audio tracks (vox, guitars, sometimes percussion or drums) and mix the whole thing to 2 tracks

Now in these days of unlimited tracks I render all the midi to audio and treat it as a separate regular audio tracks. Of course, I always save my midi tracks in the event i change my mind and want to change the instrument if it doesn't quite work out when mixing.

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16 years 6 months

DaveRunyan Mon, 01/17/2005 - 22:07

DaveRunyan do you have digital audio out on your midi equipment too so that when you mixdown to audio you get no signal loss either?

I only use audio out on my keys. They are Kurzweil and are pretty clean. I don't do near as many tracks from midi as you do is another thing. Most of my recording is real instruments from mics. I usually end up with 5 or so stereo tracks from midi souces out of a 20-30 track mix. I use midi for composing and laying things out then replace most of the parts with real instruments. It is just what has turned out to work best for me.

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51 years 5 months

britbrian Tue, 01/18/2005 - 00:50

I use a Roland JV1080 sound module, and the individual instruments will sound different depending if I use the module in 'performance mode' (all tracks playing at once), as compared to 'single' mode (each intsrument played seperately).
Therefore, if I mix down with all midi tracks playing, it sounds different to when I convert each midi track to audio seperately.
This is partly to do with the 'priority' of the various parts, and also to do with the way that effects are distributed in performance mode.