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#102069 - 01/15/11 01:36 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Tips About Mixing
Harvey Gerst Offline
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Registered: 12/05/07
Posts: 235
Loc: Sanger, TX
This is a continuation of the "some BIAB songs for a commercial release" thread in the User Showcase. In that thread I show some examples of Contrast and Front To Back. The rest of the options were too big to fit there, so this thread is a continuation of that:

I have a friend who goes by the name "Mixerman" - that's all he does; he mixes for a lot of the big name records you hear. Here are his thoughts (and mine) about mixing and how to approach it:

Mixerman said:

This has been posted many times in several different places. Seeing as I will be bringing these steps up from time to time, and there is a constant influx of new people, I will post it here as a reference.

1. Mixing is an attitude.
2. If the song sucks, the mix is irrelevant.
3. Working the room, keeping people happy and relaxed is half of mixing successfully.
4. Putting everything proportional in a mix is going to make a shitty mix.
5. Gear are tools in a mix that make life either easier or more difficult, they are not what makes a mix good or bad.
6. A mix can be great and not have great sound.
7. If nothing about the mix annoys someone in the room, the mix is often times not done.
8. Mixing can not be taught, it can only be learned.
9. The overall vibe of the track is much more important than any individual element.
10. Just because it was recorded doesn't mean it needs to be in the mix.
11. Be aggressive.

What can I say? My steps are kind of like a Marshall amp. They go to 11.

Mixerman

And I once posted this:---------------------------------------------------

The Dreaded Mixdown

This is where many new recordists fall down. It's one of the hardest things to get right, but there are a few things you can do to help get your mixes closer to where they should be, right from the start. It requires a different mindset from tracking and arranging. It also requires that you not be married or in love with any one part in the song.

Tip 1. Get as far away from the song as possible before you try mixing it. Don't try to do a mix right after a tracking session. Your ears are fried, and you're too close to the song right now. Objectivity is the word to remember. Wait a few days or even a week or more, if you have that luxury. Yes, some people can do a good mix right away, but that usually takes years to acquire that skill. If you haven't been doing mixes for many years, you ain't one of those people, so wait.

Tip 2. Mix low. Yes, cranking it sounds cool, but it will also introduce more room reflections and give you a warped picture of the sound. Crank it when you think you've got the mix nailed, but keep it low for as long as possible.

Tip 3. Listen to the song, not the tracks. The biggest mistake new mixers make is soloing each track and making it sound full and rich by itself, then they wonder why the whole thing sounds bloated and muddy. There are several methods that work to construct a good mix. You can start by bringing all the faders up, with the pan pots centered, and all effects turned off, or you can decide what the key element in the song is (the vocal, for example), and start working from that. Different engineers use different methods.

Tip 4. Build a box - a small stage in your mind. Imagine a stage. You control where the player appears on that stage. Panning lets you control left to right placement, volume and reverb lets you control front to back, and eq lets you control the frequency blend (low to high).

Tip 5. Resolving conflicts in the mix is the single biggest problem facing a mixer. You'll always find several tracks competing for attention in the same frequency range. The kick competes with the bass. The bass competes with the low guitars. The guitars may be competing with the vocals. The keyboards are all over the place. It becomes an even bigger problem for most people when they solo a track and work to make that instrument sound as big as possible. Bad move. All the instruments hafta work together and a particular instrument has to sound good with ALL the other instruments.

For the good of the song, some of the bottom end on the bass or the guitars may have to be eliminated. Yes, the instrument may not sound good when it's soloed, but it will blend in better when you listen to all the tracks. It's up to you to decide which instruments need to be shaved, but if you concentrate on the song first, it will start to become more and more obvious what needs fixing.

Tip 6. Take frequent breaks and get away from the music for a few minutes. Rest your ears. If you're doing it right, it's the most demanding part of the whole recording process. You are literally listening to ALL the instruments at the same time, following them all at once, and it's easy to burn out. Wanna see an engineer really blow up? Try talking to other people in the control room while he's trying to work on a final mix.

There's a lot more, but we'll save it for another day, or wait to let others weigh in on this most difficult of all subjects.

Harvey Gerst

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And Mixerman added:

Ahhhh.. my favorite subject. I could speak for hours and hours on mixing. Harvey's tips are great. Definitely valuable to the beginning mixer.

What can I add? Well let's start with the fundamentals of what you're working with. It's allot to digest, particularly with Harvey's list, and it should probably have it's own header, but I'll put it here anyway.

Barring 5.1, you only have 2 speakers to work with. But we live in a 3 dimensional world. So we're basically creating an illusion so that a mix sounds 3 dimensional. Let's call this a "spatial illusion."

When mixing there are 5 planes of spatial illusion. Level, panning, frequency, spatial perception, and contrast. These five planes are all used to create space in a mix.

Front to back: (Level)
Level gives an element of a mix it's own space. Compression on individual channels helps keep the level so that it doesn't disappear in the mix. A loud instrument will appear forward, or towards the front. A quiet instrument will appear to be back or further away.

Left to right: (Panning)
Panning allows you to give an element of the mix it's own space. For instance putting a guitar part hard right keeps it from washing out the vocal.

Up and down: (Frequency)
Frequency is the use of EQ to boost or cut frequencies that either muddy or clear the mix up. For instance 250Hz-700Hz are fairly muddy frequencies, and if you have too many instruments using this frequency range the mix could be muddy. Everything in an arrangement or mix should have it's own unique fundamental frequency space.

Far and near: (Spatial Perception)
Spatial perception is the use of reverbs, chambers, plates, delays, far mic placement, etc.. to create the illusion of space in the mix. An instrument with a lot of reverb can sound like it is placed in a large hall. An instrument or a vocal with a long delay, can sound like it's in the alps. An instrument that's completely dry, will sound like it's in a small carpeted room, right next to you.

Sparse to dense: (Contrast)
Arrangement is the use of muting, and altering the recorded arrangement to create space where it is needed to accent the more dense parts. The use of density to contrast sparse is great for creating the illusion of dynamics in a mix, within minimal dynamic range. The use of a limited dynamic range makes for better listening in more casual environments, where there tends to be external noise.

All 5 of these planes work together to create the illusion of space in a mix. One is no more important than any other in general, although one or two of the planes could prove to be more useful in a given mix. Not all are a requirement for a great mix either. For example, your mix should to be able to break down to mono, and still be a great mix.


Edited by Harvey Gerst (01/15/11 09:35 PM)

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#102070 - 01/15/11 02:10 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Harvey Gerst]
rharv Offline
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Registered: 05/30/00
Posts: 18858
Loc: Marysville, Mi. USA
Thanks Harvey.
Great reading.
_________________________
Make your sound your own!

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#102071 - 01/15/11 02:44 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: rharv]
Danny C. Offline
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Registered: 03/18/04
Posts: 6465
Loc: South Louisiana
Quote:

Thanks Harvey.
Great reading.




+1

Thanks for the time and sharing.
_________________________
Danny C.
www.dannycampo.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Danny-Campo/379776252109306?skip_nax_wizard=true

The More You Drink The Better I Sound

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#102072 - 01/15/11 06:27 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Harvey Gerst]
George Nelson Offline
Expert

Registered: 12/12/02
Posts: 1177
Loc: Scotland
Hi Harvey,

+1 for me also

As I have "learned" and gone back to listen to previous mixes I have done I cringe at how awful they sound.
I think one of the most helpful tips that I have found is to mix low and let the song do the work.

Best regards
michee
_________________________
Windows 10 Pro 64 bit, Biab 2018 513, Realband 2018 5
i7 Desktop Computer.


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#102073 - 01/15/11 07:10 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: George Nelson]
rharv Offline
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Registered: 05/30/00
Posts: 18858
Loc: Marysville, Mi. USA
I think the section from "Front to back: (Level)" thru "Sparse to dense: (Contrast)" should be read three times. Maybe four.

It's what makes a mix 'believable' to begin with.
_________________________
Make your sound your own!

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#102074 - 01/15/11 07:36 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: rharv]
Danny C. Offline
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Registered: 03/18/04
Posts: 6465
Loc: South Louisiana
Quote:

I think the section from "Front to back: (Level)" thru "Sparse to dense: (Contrast)" should be read three times. Maybe four.

It's what makes a mix 'believable' to begin with.




That is exactly what got my attention.

Later,
_________________________
Danny C.
www.dannycampo.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Danny-Campo/379776252109306?skip_nax_wizard=true

The More You Drink The Better I Sound

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#102075 - 01/15/11 08:18 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Danny C.]
WienSam Offline
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Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 4900
Loc: A corner of Vienna, Austria, t...
interesting and thank you. Personally, I like Mac's advice: use your ears!
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Turning that corner again - I have to keep following that dream, no matter what

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#102076 - 01/15/11 08:46 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: WienSam]
MarioD Offline
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Registered: 12/27/03
Posts: 11066
Loc: Hamlin NY
Excellent advice. It’s been copied, printed and it will be handed out to my friends, clients and fellow musicians.

Thanx for sharing.
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64 bit Win 10 Pro - the latest BiaB and RB - Roland Octa-Capture audio interface - a ton of software and some hardware.

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#102077 - 01/16/11 02:27 AM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: MarioD]
Shockwave199 Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 12/22/09
Posts: 376
Loc: Long Island, NY
Having read the mixerman chronicles more than once....ok, more than twice, I have only one question. It's not about mixing. I get it. Just because I get it, that doesn't mean I don't spend a lifetime trying to get it better. It's a very simple question Harvey, and I'm counting on you for the answer.

Who is he?

We won't tell ;>)

Dan
_________________________
My songs [newest being BIAB work]- http://www.songramp.com/homepage.php?userid=1621

My YT Channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/dfizzbom

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#102078 - 01/16/11 01:09 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Shockwave199]
Harvey Gerst Offline
Apprentice

Registered: 12/05/07
Posts: 235
Loc: Sanger, TX
Quote:

Having read the mixerman chronicles more than once....ok, more than twice, I have only one question. It's not about mixing. I get it. Just because I get it, that doesn't mean I don't spend a lifetime trying to get it better. It's a very simple question Harvey, and I'm counting on you for the answer.

Who is he?

We won't tell ;>)

Dan



Mixerman's real name is Eric Sarafin, but that's just between the two of us, Dan.

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#102079 - 01/16/11 02:26 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Harvey Gerst]
redguitars Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 12/29/07
Posts: 618
Loc: US
Hi Harvey,
Quote:

7. If nothing about the mix annoys someone in the room, the mix is often times not done.



I've read this over and over and I don't understand it.
What does this mean?
Thanks, Wayne

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#102080 - 01/16/11 03:04 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: redguitars]
Harvey Gerst Offline
Apprentice

Registered: 12/05/07
Posts: 235
Loc: Sanger, TX
Quote:

Hi Harvey,
Quote:

7. If nothing about the mix annoys someone in the room, the mix is often times not done.



I've read this over and over and I don't understand it.
What does this mean?
Thanks, Wayne



Basically, a mix is not supposed to please everyone; it's supposed to sell records. That means the guitar player may not think his guitar is loud enough, or the vocalist' 4th chorus is dropped to shorten the record enough for radio play, or the bass player had a lot of the bottom removed from his track to allow the kick drum more space.

Bottom line; a good mix will probably piss somebody off. If nobody's pissed, it may not be the world's greatest mix - yet.

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#102081 - 01/16/11 03:24 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Harvey Gerst]
redguitars Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 12/29/07
Posts: 618
Loc: US
Thanks Harvey,
I didn't get it because I forgot other "Musicians" would be in the room.
Haven't been in a studio with anyone since 1988.
Thanks, It make perfect sense now.
Wayne,

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#102082 - 01/17/11 03:43 AM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: redguitars]
dcuny Offline
Veteran

Registered: 09/27/10
Posts: 2218
Loc: Sacramento, California
Thanks for the posts! There's a lot of good stuff in there!
_________________________
-- David Cuny
My virtual singer development blog

Vocal control, you say. Never heard of it. Is that some kind of ProTools thing?

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#102083 - 01/21/11 01:31 AM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: dcuny]
Shockwave199 Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 12/22/09
Posts: 376
Loc: Long Island, NY
Thanks for the mixerman heads up Harvey!

Dan
_________________________
My songs [newest being BIAB work]- http://www.songramp.com/homepage.php?userid=1621

My YT Channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/dfizzbom

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#102084 - 01/25/11 02:36 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Shockwave199]
Harvey Gerst Offline
Apprentice

Registered: 12/05/07
Posts: 235
Loc: Sanger, TX
Quote:

Thanks for the mixerman heads up Harvey!

Dan



It's really not a secret anymore. Eric revealed his identity a while back.

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#102085 - 01/25/11 10:07 PM [Post your own Tips and Tricks here] Re: Tips About Mixing [Re: Harvey Gerst]
Shockwave199 Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 12/22/09
Posts: 376
Loc: Long Island, NY
I missed it. I lost track of the whole thing quite a while ago. I will admit though, I spent many a day with a cup of joe at my desk reading the chronicles instead of working. I would wait for the latest post every day. Very bad, but oh so good!

Dan
_________________________
My songs [newest being BIAB work]- http://www.songramp.com/homepage.php?userid=1621

My YT Channel- http://www.youtube.com/user/dfizzbom

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