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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 201968 times)

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March 30, 2011, 10:22:32 PM
Thanks for the very kind words Mike (and the many many suggestions for improvement :) )

After repeated listens I'd already planned the following:
* Guitar Left bring up a bit, Guitar R bring down a bit.
* Automate Guitars (hadn't really gotten to that yet) & tweek eqs for different sections).
* Tweek the delay on lead vocal.
* Backing Vox: bring down a bit plus thin out & compress more. btw effect is not a reverb but more like a 20x doubler - I was trying to make it sound like more voices.
* "super-wide guitar chops" were meant to stick out - I was actually planning on make them stick out more but have less of them. This idea came from some "chunks" that were on one of the guitar tracks in another section (that I didn't actually use).
* Had a couple of thoughts about the final chorus but didn't think it was working too badly as it is.
* Mono-compatibility issues - I had the "width" function engaged (subtly) on my Neve 8816 - would that account for top end loss in mono? No "vitalizer" type plugins used - just compression (plus parallel compression) & eq.

One thing I wasn't sure about was the bass in the intro / 1st verse - but this is the one thing you didn't mention?
Must be ok then!  :-\

Thanks again Mike - I'll try & get a revised mix in before the deadline.

Cheers
Malcolm

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24660599/blood_to_bone%2024%2048%20MIX_290311.mp3

Right -- attention everyone! This contest has just moved up a gear!

(Step forward and take a bow mrtuesday. :))

Seriously, this is now the 20th version of this mix I've listened to, but it's the first one that's had me bopping around my living room. The drums sound full and cohesive; the vocal tuning is much tighter; the guitar textures have been subtly filled out with additional overdubs without overshadowing the band's own musical lines; the low end is both powerful and controlled, without muddiness; the clarity of all the individual parts is excellent; the small-speaker translation is splendid; the overall tonality and stereo spread are on the whole very well-judged; it sounds like there has already been a good deal of automation work to keep a close handle on the balance as the texture changes; and there are a dozen little production touches besides which keep tickling your ear to stop you zoning out. There's so much I like here that I'll be more concise if I concentrate my critique on the few remaining niggles, but make no mistake: for my money, this is currently the mix to beat.

So what could still be improved? Well, the first thing I'd suggest would be to have a closer look at the timing. I wonder whether you've already done some timing tweaks, because it feels like it skips along better than most of the other mixes, but it's possible that this is an illusion created by the balance itself. Whatever the case, there are still numerous points in this mix where the timing stumbles subtly, reducing the forward momentum of the track -- probably most starkly the two verses, but there are moments in the mid-sections and outro as well which I'd think of attending to if I were in your position. It's particularly the timing relationship between the drums and the massed bass/guitars rhythm that's my concern. There's also the odd section of tuning in the choruses that I might revisit if the vocal's going to be that high in the balance.

While I like the drums a lot, the tom fills feel thin-sounding and are rather low in the balance for my liking. I'd also be tempted to push the snare up another decibel at least. That might seem initially to imbalance the snare against the kick, but the moment you try to increase the loudness of this mix the snare transient that's currently slicing cleanly through the texture will lose some of that edge it's relying on. The snare might also benefit from some more high end just during the choruses, but I'm not sure. We're getting into 'suck it and see' territory here. And maybe you could have a slightly larger 'virtual drum room'? It's not wrong as it is, exactly, but it just feels a little like I'm sitting and watching a great live drummer in my living room, rather than in a live venue. Who knows, you might be able to achieve the effect simply by delaying the room mic a bit.

There's little to fault the guitar sounds, as far as I'm concerned, with the exception of one balance issue: the main high riff in the choruses feels a bit understated, where it's actually something of a hook. This is particularly apparent in mono, because that part is panned well to the left and therefore loses roughly 3dB in the balance against the vocals. I'd also like to hear a bit more riding of the melodic details of the chorus guitar parts, particularly where they plug the gaps in the vocal phrases.

The lead vocals sound great to me in the verses: tall and wide, with nice throaty things going on. However, in the choruses they're not quite as successful. For a start, I think they're a bit high in the balance, and you could make more of the effects and doubletrack in terms of matching the vocals to the more expansive chorus backing. At the moment, the vocal feels a little stranded out the front, and is undermining the otherwise excellent illusion of size generated by the rest of the arrangement. While I like the general direction that's been taken with the backing vocals, they're competing with the vocal in the midrange in a way that I'm not sure is ideal. I'd be tempted to give them less 2-3kHz and a bit more 'air'. Their reverb effect is a bit stodgy too, from a tonal perspective. You don't have much space in the mix for these backing vocals, so they have to be carefully carved to fit. You could bring them up higher in the outro too, I think, or even make a new SFX feature of some kind out of them.

I'd like to hear even more automation riding, pulling up melodic corners and fills in the backing parts, and really taking the initiative in directing the listener's attention towards the most interesting elements of the music from moment to moment. The lead vocals still aren't quite as stable as I'd like, either, and automation could help there too -- although you'll probably only be able to improve significantly on what's already there if you spend quality time with a single-point mono monitoring system. Automation might also provide some help with the first verse, which doesn't seem quite to sustain the intensity between the vocal phrases, now that the guitar has been ditched in aid of the long-term dynamics. (If rides don't go far enough, then other sampled effects might be introduced, or else some kind of interesting 'spot modulation' of the existing ones.)

And speaking of long-term dynamics, there's still more that could be done to provide that crucial final-chorus-entry pay-off. Given that this mix has already pushed the supplied multitrack material about as far as it can go, it seems pretty clear to me that people are really going to have to think outside the box to make significant further headway on this issue. It's probably the biggest single challenge of this job.

Although the stereo picture isn't too wide, by any means, there are still some mono-compatibility issues, in that I'm losing quite a bit of top end off the guitars and cymbals in mono. I wonder if a Vitalizer-style buss process might have been applied to the high end, in fact, which would help account for it. If it's not that, then maybe a little additional phase-alignment between the two sides of any stereo signals in the mix might improve matters. As a smaller point, the super-wide guitar chops in mid-section 2 feel a bit too far off-centre, so that they seem to stick out unduly. You could say that this is a nice bit of variety (as they're not essential to the texture), but I'm not sure I quite buy it in practice.

The overall mix tonality is within a gnat's whisker of the Thrice track, and generally very suitable for the style. Personally I might cut a decibel or so around 250Hz to combat a hint of tubbiness, and also maybe boost a decibel at 1.5kHz to slightly harden the overall tone. That said, mid-section 1 is already sounding just a hint harsh/hollow at the moment, so a bit of EQ tweaking or rearrangement may be required for that section independently of this.

There's a new line in the sand... :)

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March 30, 2011, 10:47:55 PM
http://www.romelpotter.com/Blood_to_Bone_Zabmix.mp3

First off, good work on the more creative aspects of this mix. You've showcased a lot of different ideas, and many of them are very effective in contributing to the forward momentum, or just to a sense of unease which is entirely in keeping with the track. My main comment as regards maximising their potential is to concentrate on getting the timing exactly right, because otherwise you risk causing the overall groove to stumble unduly.

I agree that the vocal sound doesn't really in the zone yet, and the thinness of the tone feels quite a long way off the mark, especially in the verses. While this sound is a little more suitable for the chorus onslaught (where mix space is more limited), the dryness of the vocal doesn't really feel appropriate to the wide-screen soundscape there either. There seems only a little delay and some kind of chorusy widener applied, whereas more expansive delays and reverbs feel more appropriate to me there. Don't get me wrong: much as I'm going on a fair bit about blend and reverb issues on this thread, I'm perfectly happy to leave things bone-dry where appropriate, it's just that this doesn't feel to me to be the right scenario for that kind of sound. A side-effect of the thin vocal timbre is that the sibilance has been very much exaggerated. If you're going to EQ the sound that way, then you need to get some serious de-essing involved. However, my recommendation would be to strip the vocal processing right back and try to think more in terms of clearing space for the singer vocal using EQ on other parts, rather than applying such heavy processing on the vocal channel itself. You'll need a good deal of compression, but the EQ shouldn't need to be this drastic.

The kit sound seems to be fairly well balanced, and you've made a good stab at keeping the snare upfront, even though it's not particularly dense in the high-frequency region. The snare tone does feel a little muffled, though, so I might roll back a few of the low mids there. The kick is maybe a little too edgy for the verse, but feels good for the chorus. Blend isn't too bad, although the reverb effects that seem primarily responsible for this are rather too audible in their own right for a modern production. The kick-drum in the opening section is probably the clearest example of this -- the reverb is both noticeable and rather unnatural-sounding. Try to refine the sound of your reverb(s) so that they still do their blending/size-enhancement job, but without being as obviously audible as artificial effects. EQ'ing the effects returns will be a key weapon in this battle, so do give this activity the time it needs -- it's one of the things most commonly neglected in amateur mixes, in my experience. A bit more compression of the full drums buss (or using a parallel channel) would also be advisable, especially in this genre. Not only will that glue the kit sound together better, but it will also give you a little more sustain, so the drum peaks won't have to be as high to compete with the guitars in the mix.

While the kick is providing a measure of low-end weight, the bass is letting the side down on this score, I think, because it feels much too low in the mix. As a result the overall mix tone lacks a certain amount of warmth and tunefulness in the 100-200Hz region particularly. If you're struggling to balance the bass part, then I'd guess that you might be suffering from low-frequency resonance problems in your listening room (most small studio have them to some extent), so do what you can to improve the acoustics if possible, and then try to make the maximum use of the various low-end workarounds I mention in Chapter 3 of the book (it's one of the sample chapters available here).

In addition, though, the mix has rather too much boxy-sounding 300-600Hz octave in there, and would also benefit from a good two-octave boost around 2kHz to bring the primarily instruments into focus and supply a slightly harder edge to the tone (in line with the references). These frequency mismatches between your mix and the references suggests to me that you might not be performing enough comparisons between your work and commercial material, and if that's the case then try to get into this habit at the earliest opportunity -- it's one of the most powerful mixing tools you have at your disposal. Although the width of the overall stereo image is for the most part fairly reasonable, the wider guitars which enter during the second middle-section suffer from mono-incompatibility. That means that although the second mid-section seems to step up an energy level in stereo, this effect is lost in mono -- in fact, if anything the second mid-section actually appears to lose power somewhat compared to the first.

Thanks for this submission, especially for demonstrating the impact that reverse-envelope transition effects can have in a mix like this.

Thanks for your coments Mike, The vocals wern't dry but I was [overly] aware of swamping them in reverb to cover the problems I was having, same with the level of the bass. I do A+B commercial material (I use Muse- Hysteria as my referance track) but admittadly didn't do so in this case due to time constraints. My listening room is my bedroom and yea its not good but it can be improved with acoustic foam which is top of my list of things to buy :) - I apreciate your coments Mike, thanks!
 
« Last Edit: March 30, 2011, 10:50:12 PM by Zabrilla »
Cubase V5 with Yamaha N12

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March 30, 2011, 11:04:28 PM
Hi Guys,

     Mat here from Young Griffo (bass and vocals). Just wanted to drop in and underline how impressed we all are with the mixes submitted so far. It's been fascinating for us to see the creative angles taken on our track and so much of what has been provided is innovative and yet faithful to what we are trying to achieve tonally.

We have had some fantastic experiences in mixing our new EP - almost entirely thanks to the efforts of fHumble fHingaz and more recently, Mike S. In reading through the responses and listening to the submissions here, it's clear you have a very talented comminity on this site. As a straight up musician with little ability in the mixing space, I have a new found respect for how powerful a good mix can be.

Thanks again,

Mat G

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March 31, 2011, 06:31:29 AM
I have heard some great mixes of this song. Hopefully, this mix will be on par with a couple of my favs. Nothing was added sample or instrument wise, but I did cut a lot out ;D

Mike, thanks for all your efforts and your patience. I couldn't imagine doing what you have undertaken. But I am thankful that you have.

Enough said...

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23347971/Blood%20to%20Bone-deej%27s%20mix.wav

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March 31, 2011, 07:03:18 AM
Actually I've found a sufficient number of flaws in this one to justify having another go at the mix before the critique, so let me kindly ask you to just skip both.  ::) Thanks!

Fair enough. I'll pop you back into the queue when the upate arrives.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
Free Mixing Resources On-line!

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March 31, 2011, 07:11:56 AM
Thanks for the very kind words Mike

Just credit where credit's due.

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* Backing Vox: bring down a bit plus thin out & compress more. btw effect is not a reverb but more like a 20x doubler - I was trying to make it sound like more voices.

Right. That makes sense.

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* "super-wide guitar chops" were meant to stick out - I was actually planning on make them stick out more but have less of them.

Fair enough. It's a judgement call that one. I couldn't quite make up my mind myself about them.

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* Mono-compatibility issues - I had the "width" function engaged (subtly) on my Neve 8816 - would that account for top end loss in mono?

That could easily be it. When I talked about the Vitalizer, I was meaning all those stereo enhancer effects that enhance the stereo Sides signal, and the 8816 does this using its M&S matrixing.

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One thing I wasn't sure about was the bass in the intro / 1st verse - but this is the one thing you didn't mention?
Must be ok then!  :-\

From memory I seem to recall that you'd altered the tonality of that part quite a lot, but I don't remember thinking unfavourably of it. Look forward to hearing a revision!
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
Free Mixing Resources On-line!

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March 31, 2011, 07:19:31 AM
Thanks for your coments Mike, The vocals wern't dry but I was [overly] aware of swamping them in reverb to cover the problems I was having.

A very sensible approach -- I do usually find that trying to make the balance work as well as possible without effects results in a stronger final result.

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I do A+B commercial material (I use Muse- Hysteria as my referance track) but admittadly didn't do so in this case due to time constraints.

Interesting you mention Muse. I've heard a few of their pre-Spike Stent mixes, and I've noticed that they seem quite middly by comparison with a lot of other bands, so maybe that's part of the reason for your instinctive preference for less high end. Still, I'm glad you're normally in the habit of referencing, as it really is the only way to compete.

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My listening room is my bedroom and yea its not good but it can be improved with acoustic foam which is top of my list of things to buy

There's some acoustics advice in the first chapter of my book which might be useful for you then -- you can read it free in Kindle edition here.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
Free Mixing Resources On-line!

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March 31, 2011, 07:24:55 AM
Mike, thanks for all your efforts and your patience. I couldn't imagine doing what you have undertaken.

No problem. I didn't quite know what to expect of it, but it's been very interesting, and good ear-training too! It's not something that you normally get to do, this, and it's really great to hear the range of things people are doing when presented with identical material. I reckon the archive will make a great educational resource too.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
Free Mixing Resources On-line!

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March 31, 2011, 08:19:32 AM
Thanks to Mike and John, as well Fhumble Fhingas for putting this on.  Great fun.  Here's my mix:

http://www.box.net/shared/static/x76d1uf75j.mp3

Just posted a revision.  If you already downloaded the original, that's OK, but if not, I'd rather have you review this one.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 12:09:25 AM by Guitar Zero »