Mix to Blend... ?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by Danielle, Jan 16, 2005.

  1. Danielle

    Danielle Guest

    Hello, first I just like to say y'all have been such a great resource of knowledge for someone starting out in an adventurous quest to learn concert/acoustic recording.

    As I'm moving toward the next phase of recording, "mixing", I have encountered two problems that desparately need advice from y'all great minds:

    1) I am mixing a Jazz band I recently recorded, and after listening on a home stereo system, I noticed a huge difference in the sound quality and balance of each instrument. In the studio the mix sounded alright, but on the home stereo, nothing blended! It was like each instrument was in its own little world. I'm grateful for any suggestion and advice I can get to try to correct this problem. (BTW, the instruments are drums, acoustic bass, piano, and sax.)

    2) For a piece of vocal music that was meant to be recorded in a concert hall, but unfortunately I only had access to a studio. The recording was done in studio with piano and sax. Is there a way to make the singer sound like in a hall but still blend well with piano & sax??

    Thanks to all!

    Peace & Prosperity,

  2. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    Q. What does that tell you?

    A. One of those systems is not telling you the truth...

    Play some similar music, that has been professionally recorded/mixed/mastered/neutered/whatevered on both systems, and try to figure out which one is fibbing the most.

    If it's your studio monitors, you'll need to address that before you can go any further with anything.

    This is only a suggestion, because I have no idea of how strong the studio room sound is on your recording. Find a nice, appropriate concert hall reverb (there are plenty of impulses to choose from) that suits the voice and the song. Send the voice into it at an appropriate amount. Then, send just a smidge of the other sounds into it as well. Play with the balance. You may find that putting less of the voice and more of the other instruments creates a more realistic effect, with the instruments appearing behind and wetter than the voice. The basic idea is to use the reverb to 'glue' the sounds together, in a similar way that air does in reality.

    For a guide as to how much reverb to use, take a listen to some professionally recorded examples of similar music, and try to emulate it.

    The following ideas are for experimentation only, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. If you're really feeling adventurous, try using a longer pre-delay into the reverb for the voice relative to the instruments. That might help to sit the instruments back further in the mix, behind the voice. If you close miked the instruments, you may even try slipping them all in time behind the voice by a very small amount, like, 3ms or so. That might create the impression that they are further away than the voice, just as they might be in a concert hall situation (from a microphone or listener's point of view). Although, sometimes the vocalist stands in the crook of the piano, so no major time difference there at all. No promises here, I'm afraid, so keep the 'undo' button nearby at all times!

    Only suggestions...

    - Greg Simmons
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Good points on the room sims/reverbs, Greg. That'll help for sure.

    This is, was and always will be a good topic and something for everyone who mixes to keep in mind: What are your speakers telling you, and how well will any given mix translate to any OTHER given speaker? The trick is to know what you're hearing in the space you're hearing, and WHY it sounds that way.

    So many factors come into play: room size, room sound, environment, early reflections, furniture, glass, curtains, drapes, people present, etc. etc. Even the damping factor between similar speakers and different amps can seriously affect what you're hearing from one space to another. Don't be bullied by people who tell you "everything's flat" or "this system is tweaked out to be .0005 db of yada yada yada, so of course it's perfect!" BULL. Every mixing environment has compromises, some moreso than others. Some achieve near-total perfection (million-$$$ studios, for example) while some are only "Close enough". Most fall in between those two. Many "pro" mastering suites are different spaces than tracking/mixing rooms - for starters, they don't have the massive consoles (and resultant reflections off the board itself!)

    Headphones, while never a miracle cure, can assist you in the most basic of referencing things as well. (Many of us don't carry speakers around on remotes, but we have headphones we can at least trust for reference. We KNOW we're not going to mix on them, for example, but we use them for the basics, like stereo imaging, listening for extraneous noises, etc. etc. ) Again, know your headphones, their quirks, etc., and use them to your advantage from time to time, in-studio or out on remotes.

    By all means, take some time and play CDs and recordings that you already know. (Do this alone, keep everyone away or tell them to shut up. :) You need quiet time to do this.) This way you have a reference as to what they sound like elsewhere, perhaps over time and many listening spaces. Listen for surprises, changes, anomalies from what you're used to hearing. Check those against others, and see what's what.

    Remember too that listening is emotional as well as physical. Unless you've had years and years experience (or if you're an audio idiot-savant), most people's memory of sound is very short. You can't toggle back and forth between your home and your studio environment (Teleportation isn't working up to Star-Trek levels yet!), so you've got to trust your instincts and CDs/recordings you already know.

    Reverb (room sims) levels are tricky, too, ditto for any DSP and EQ: subtle changes that appear obvious on the big pricey system may not show up at home as anything obvious. Some speaker exaggerate things too much, while others don't show off the subtleties. Sometimes you have to split the difference, or at least get good at guessing when its' "Too much" or "Not enough" for the rest of the world's listening taste. I've done mixes with what I thought was good sounding reverb (in the studio) but sounded ridiculously wet - underwater!- once I played it elsewhere. (Hours and hours of mixing without a break will do that to ya!)

    I'm currently reviewing some high end speakers and got this result right away: Virtually everything I've heard from commerical releases sounds GREAT on them, better than I'm used to hearing, while my own stuff always sounds like I could have done a little better with them. (Ok, I admit I'm never 100% happy anyway!) Also, everything I'm mixing on them right now sounds good (very good), with NO surprises and no anomalies when played on OTHER systems. THAT's a real key: transportable mixes, or mixes that "Translate" well on other systems.

    Eventually, you'll get good at this in general, and if you work in enough studios, on enough speakers, you'll begin to get a feel for what's real and what's not. When you finally settle on something you can trust (say, in your home or project studio), you'll be able to mix with more confidence, knowing how the mix is going to sound (at least in general) elsewhere, on other systems.

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