Mixing - where do yu start ?

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by Geoff Wood, Apr 9, 2002.

  1. Geoff Wood

    Geoff Wood Guest

    Novice mixer, just getting into it. I've messed around and ended up doing things all sorts of different ways, coming to no firm conclusion on what is the best approach.

    How would you guys (and gals) approach mixing the average 4 or 5 piece rock band. Do you do, say, do the drum kit first, the vox, etc, and what base level do you start from ?

    TIA, any relevant links appreciated too.

  2. homerg

    homerg Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    This is what I do:
    I start with the kick, get it sounding pretty good and tight and then I add the bass guitar. You may need to add some EQ if necessary. Once those two are somewhat happening together I add the rest of the drum kit one track at a time except for the overheads. I add those at the same time. I may add some gates on the tom tracks to keep unwanted stray noise out. Then I add the guitars and keys. The last thing is the vocals. If you find that the overall band is way too loud for the vocals, create a group with all the tracks that you've already mixed and bring down the volume till the vocals sit where they sound the best. Now I start adding the effects as needed. I find if I do this that I usually end up using a lot less effects than if I start putting reverbs on right away. I try not to use much compression as I usually compress the final mix on the master fader anyways. It tends to retain more life to the overall sound.
    There's a bunch of ways to do this, this is just one. Don't work on any mix longer than a few hours, and take breaks periodically.
  3. homerg, I know that this probably varies with the song you're mixing, but what kind of settings (ballpark) do you find yourself using for compressing the 2-bus? Also what gear are you using for this purpose? Thanx!
    Bob Green
  4. Geoff Wood

    Geoff Wood Guest


    Yes that's just what I've been doing. I start with the drums peaking around -10, but then I end up having to back everything off when the other stuff gets added. Where would you put the bass'n'drums to start with, level-wise ?
  5. jo

    jo Active Member

    Oct 9, 2001
    Home Page:
    I rarely start with the kick. Most of the time I start with the overheads. I get a better picture of the whole drum set this way.
    For the level: make subs! and change the level there.

    Good luck Jo
  6. homerg

    homerg Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Sorry, it was a busy weekend.

    It really doesn't matter where you start because your going to make level adjustments as you add other instruments anyway. I would concentrate on EQs between instruments. Make sure you're not masking instruments while boosting other ones, and so on. This is most important with the drums and bass cause I've found that guitars don't necessarily have to sound like they naturally do in order to sound good in a mix. Sometimes vocals sound best when you boost the mids a bit. Almost nazely sounding. However, a bass guitar can kill the kick drum real fast if you're not careful. Experiment, don't be afraid to try things.
  7. jo

    jo Active Member

    Oct 9, 2001
    Home Page:
    Sorry but it matters to me, where I start :)
    If I start with the "close mics" first I end up using much more artificial reverb than starting with overheads or room mics. I work the overheads much harder, when I try to get a decent drum sound with em. The close mics are more like spot mics (to me).
    The sound I like to achieve this way is something like CSNY or Neil Young (the new one sounds really cool to me).
    But if I'm trying to sound more "radio-friendly" I start with kick-snare-overheads.
    I always try to bring the vocals very early into the mix - it's all about the vocals isn't it? This way I know where they are and how they feel. But sometimes I can't stand listening to the shouting all night long so I mute them occasionally.
    This is the way I work at the moment. Ask me in a few days and everything will be totally different ;)

  8. homerg

    homerg Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    I meant, it doesn't matter where your levels are when you start off because you'll be adjusting them later anyway. Besides, my advice was for Geoff, not you Jo. If you like to start with the most ambient tracks, knock yourself out.
    However, it's been 30 years since C, S, & N have had a hit record and things have changed a little since then. ;)
  9. Irene

    Irene Guest

    Re-read a Bob Clearmountain article today.

    In a nutshell he:
    a. sets up a quick overall balance
    b. starts with the vocal, listens to the song
    c. all else comes after that
    d. what's not needed goes

    Simple. I must try it sometime. :)
  10. Geoff Wood

    Geoff Wood Guest

    What I really want is ballpark figure where others the drums/bass peaking at, so that as the mix builds I don't have to keep backing everything down !

  11. MadMoose

    MadMoose Active Member

    Apr 22, 2001
    I'll have my kick hitting around -15VU when I start the mix. My A/D's are calibarted so 0VU is equal to -15dBfs.

    If I'm mixing something I've tracked I'll usually start with the room mics and kick drum, add bass, a little guitar and more close mics from the drums as needed, starting with the overheads. the exception is while working on metal and things that need to be dry. Then I start with overheads, kick and snare and add the room mics last. While I'm doing that I'll pop the vocal in and out to see how it's fitting in. When I have sort of a basic mix together I'll add my 2-bus compressor and mix from there. I never automaticly gate or compress anything unless it needs it. Effects usualy get added as I hear room for them or towards the end of the mix. Solos and things usually get added towards the end after the vocal.

    If I'm mixing something I haven't tracked and I haven't heard a rough mix I'll look at the track sheet and put the vocal and basic chord insturment up first. Then I'll add drums and bass and stuff one at a time until I get a feel for the song. Then I start muting things like extra percussion and solos and work on the meat of the song. Then I start following the process above.
  12. mik9dt

    mik9dt Guest

    You've got to ask yourself a question.
    What is the focus of the track? Vocals?,Drums?, etc

    When you have the answer then you know where to start.
    Let's asume vocals are important.
    First set up a rough and ready mix, take everything way down in level and bring up your main vocals. Get them right where you want them and then begin the process of mixing in everything else; always keeping your mind on the fact that the main thing is (in this example) THE VOCAL.
    Tonally sculpt everything else to help the vocal and never compete with it..... This way lies fame and fortune!
    Tomorrow is another day, but you could start from a worse place. Starting with Drums and adding in everything else as you go along is a very common technique (it works for a lot of people), but it has always seemed to me to be exactly the wrong approach ( many years of trial and error have shown me this).
    Good luck. There are no rules... Any good result is just that, no matter how you get there. :)
  13. I usually start by bringing up the overheads and adding the vocal to that. After that, the guitars and next the bass. Finally, I bring up any other auxillary tracks. This forces me to work around the vocal primarily and then the guitar and lastly make sure the other instruments are cutting thru.
  14. Aimhill

    Aimhill Guest

    You may read this one: How to mix a pop song from scratch
  15. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    An excellant approach (among many)

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