What makes a 'professional' mix?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by EricIndecisive, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Hey everyone, I was really wondering how studios get such a nice sound. I don't expect much from the $150 dollars worth of stuff that I use, but which is more important: The equipment or the knowledge needed for mastering?

    What is annoying when I record is that the song will actually sound different depending on what I listen to it through, as in the levels seem to change quite a bit.
  2. Jbrax

    Jbrax Guest

    Know I dont have the best gear on the planet.
    But I have found out that the more you record the
    better it will get .. also you need to make comparisons
    of your music on different sorces.. Boombox, your car,
    etc. that way you will be able to adjust your ears to the enviroment that you record in.And havinga controlled and proper enviroment to record in will make a huge difference. I feel thats key to good recordings.. It has helped me alot..Masteringis awhole different ball of wax
    .Ill stick to tracking and mixing and leave the mastering
    to those who do it for a living..
  3. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    thanks for your advice. what i usually record in is pretty much controlled (quiet dorm room, actually will change next semester as its kind of boring...) I wish I could hear what my music sounds like in my car, but I need a new cd player since the thing does not play anything but these fruity colored cds, and I ran out.

    I know what you mean about getting better over time, I have learned a lot with the stuff that I have been using and except for my first song, I think I have improved.

    The first song I wrote pretty quick and was my first time recording it, but for some reason it was the best mixed out of like, all my songs haha.

    Some more questions though:

    When double tracking something, do you use two mics or play it twice? I only have one mic (and a one input little mixer) but my friend recently bought a firepod, so I will be able to use his mic too and record.

    How much do you usually level out your tracks? I know its different for every instrument, but say guitar on the left and maybe lead on the right. I will experiment today but usually at about 30% to L or R the mix still sounds very 'close'

    What lacks the most is the recording of my vocals. I don't have a great voice but I can sing in key, but it lacks any of the ambience of say the vocals of Jack Johnson. My music is more like acoustic / rock with hopefully some Jack and Satriani mixed into it.
  4. Seedlings

    Seedlings Active Member

    Kansas City, MO
    "What makes a 'professional mix'" you ask?

    Well, not me. I suppose if you get paid to mix anything...cole slaw...paint...fun and work...Kool-Aid...country music...cement...drinks...choclate chip cookie dough...family and rock and roll... you're a "professional."

    Yup. I'm certain. If you get paid to do something, you're a "professional" at it. Put it on your resume. Mixing included.

    No help at all...
  5. Jbrax

    Jbrax Guest

    When recording guitars (depending on the song) I will have them record it twice.. Panning them hard left and hard right leaving the middle area for drums,bass, vocals, keys, backing vocals all in there respective areas of the mix.. You used the word Ambient.. What does that mean to you? Think about it and experiment with it until you get what you hear in your head..
    Also start listening to your favorite cd's closely .Listen to where things are in the mix,left,right ,middle,front and back picture that in your head..
    You should be able to hear what you see and see what you hear..
    I dont have all the answers for you but this should help you on your way..

  6. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    some very good advice, now that i read it, im wondering why i never thought of it before. i will definitely try to do this. also i will start spicing up the drims with some harder pans (i use drumkit from hell sounds and write my own tracks in fruity loops)

    i will also experiment with my not so good vocals. for recording good vocals is a compressor necessary? because i cant really sing since it throws the levels out of whack, and i end up having to record in a very controlled and unnatural manner. i cant wait till i can play and sing and record at the same time.
  7. Jbrax

    Jbrax Guest

    Yes some lite compression on the input should keep you from clipping.

    Good Luck
  8. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    damn, well i have no compression lol. but ill do the best i can, i would love to start posting samples but none of it is copyrighted or anything and i dont want people to start stealing it.
  9. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    and LoL at seedlings haha

    I looked up some compressors and it seems like they are decently affordable! Could I get a decent compressor for around $300? I would love it if I could finally practice singing and not trying to keep my voice at the same level the whole time. And are compressors used in a live setting as well?
  10. this might sound crazy to you but try mixing with the volume low. if you can make it sound pretty good out your speakers low..watch your levels so your not hitting too hard..and learn about stereo imaging. make sure everything is in phase or out phase when needed..experiment with your mix till you find the right sound out of your room. don't worry about sounding like the big dogs its more like find what you like out of what you can afford

    Pro Audio Matrix
  11. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Almost sounds like you are hesitant to sing out properly in your dorm room because you might embarass yourself?:shock: Back off the mic a bit and belt it out in your natural voice! To heck with what the neighbors think. They might actually like it! Besides, it will help keep you from sounding like you're mumbling unintelligibly right into the capsule...unless you're going for that John Mayer live sound.

    If you put two mics on a guitar for the rhythm part...sure pan them apart. With bass guitar, kick and snare, and vocal down the middle...and the rest of the drums and the rhythm guitar panned...that should give you some space. If you have a lead guitar come in between vocals, maybe just put that down the middle, too.

    Depending on what you are doing, and if your lead guitar is gonna be present throughout, though, then you might want to tilt the rhythm guitar to one side, and the lead to the other. It's pretty much about keeping things out of each others' way, but still occupying space...while leaving space. You can still put two mics on the rhythm to get the best of both mics and positions. As mentioned before, (I think) anytime you put two mics on one source, you have to pay attention to their placement and phase. Spread wide apart in the stereo spectrum, you probably won't notice it. But when you start moving them closer together in pan position, you may start hearing frequencies cancelling or reinforcing. That's why people do a mono test.

    Playing it twice? If you're good enough to get it pretty close, why not? I wouldn't try to put those two performances in the same pan position, though. Then again, if you slap a capo on the guitar, and play the same thing higher up...panning them together might be interesting? Panning them apart might be cool. Who knows until it's done?

    Try to get the guitar good going in. That might even benefit from a BIT of LIGHT compression. Keep in mind that when you are sitting there listening with ONLY the guitar playing, we all tend to like to tweak EQ to fill in some bottom and add some top-end sparkle. But, if you leave it set like that, the bottom and top end may be getting in the way of something else. It depends on what's already there, and what you plan to add. An acoustic guitar and singer, by themselves, usually sounds better with the frequencies spread wider on the guitar. It fills out the missing bass guitar, and compensates for the missing snare/cymbals. You may find you have to reign in at both ends a bit to get it to fit with other stuff. And, it's better to TRY to get it close before you have to start mangling the recorded audio.

    Ok...I'm done now :wink: Just some things to consider and, perhaps, debate.

  12. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    Thanks a lot for the suggestions, especially the very elaborate one from you KK.

    musicmixingguru: ill try mixing lower, for one song that required me to actually sing louder, i had to turn down the mic. the thing with that song though is that it was almost having distortion on, and everything was pretty much at a constant level. But ill try it anyways, im going to start re-recording songs because I know more now about recording than i did last year when I first started. "its more like find what you like out of what you can afford " thank you, now that I read this I actually am pretty pleased with what I have!

    KK: Maybe a little bit ;) Most of the songs I record in my dorm room though are quieter and don't require belting out so much haha. Personally I think that the guitar sounds good, but I will put up a song so you guys can judge it. I am absolutely in love with my acoustic. It is not the brightest guitar, but the bass notes are so nice.

    What sites are available that can let me put up my song? I don't really want to use myspace, but I'll put this latest one up so you guys can hear it and critique. This one that I finished last night has a major Jack Johnson influence, but I just love the things that he writes about, the laid back feel of his music, and his clever use of words (well, not saying mine are clever)
  13. drumist69

    drumist69 Active Member

    The ART Pro VLA is a decent compressor for about $280 new. Might find one for less on ebay or something. Andy
  14. audiotec

    audiotec Guest

    In audio recording, the best thing you can do is keep it simple. Record everything dry with decent affordable mics to get basic tracks, then add some compression to bring the vocals out and add effects sparingly to add depth. It is also better to use EQ to cut frequencies rather than to boost, which can muddy the mix. Some of the best songs ever recorded where done in a very simple manner.
  15. Todzilla

    Todzilla Active Member

    Neuse River Watershed
    Home Page:
    One of the few total no-brainers in equipment purchasing is the RNC compressor from fmraudio.com.

    At $200, it kick everything under $1000's ass.
  16. EricIndecisive

    EricIndecisive Active Member

    drumist: i will check that one fo sho

    audiotec: i have been practicing (probably with little success) singing in the car haha, but doing what you said and trying to sing from the diaphragm. I keep mostly everything very simple. I am amazed at how well an SM57 picks up guitar. I bought my guitar that has a pretty 'muddy' sound with some deep bass notes, cus I love how it sounds in real life. For the recording though, it can overtake the mix, so on my little mixer I just bring up the highs and bring down the lows and it comes out pretty good. Not professional but definitely listenable!

    Todzilla: I will totally look into that one and check some more reviews. My birthday is right around the corner (and smack dab in the middle of finals.. hooray)

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