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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 188952 times)

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April 01, 2011, 05:43:20 PM
As if you didn't have enough mixes to sort through  :P , here's my revised FINAL (promise) mix.

I tried to take the notes you gave me and improve it, work with the eq to try and make everything blend more, added low end to the kick, tried to make the outro more interesting.


And the download is enabled to start off this time  :D


http://soundcloud.com/slater05/blood-to-bone-mix-revised
www.mikeslatermusic.com
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15" MBP, Apogee Duet, M-Audio BX5a's

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April 01, 2011, 08:41:19 PM
Hi Mike,

Thank you for your very kind words. Before this, I had only mixed some of my own tracks, which were instrumentals made just for fun as drafts for songs, and I think this mix reflects that. And the fact that it was entirely done on headphones...
This whole contest is being quite a learning experience (my first in the field, I might add) and the constructiveness and detail of your critiques is great (as is your patience...). I'll try to implement your suggestions, only if to learn what "a dip at 2kHz" might produce - not joking or being a wise guy... can't "hear" the frequencies in my head, yet, but I'll get there ;)

Oh, and "Love the way you've flown the vocals around" just made my day (although I agree with you on overcooking... it's like an addiction you can't stop - just one more)! Still convincing myself it's not an April Fool's joke ;)

Thank you very much.


And one very special thanks to Young Griffo (and to Mat, who took some time to drop by) for providing with the raw material, and a great one. I don't know if I would have the courage to let one of my songs out there into the hands of someone like me :) Thanks guys, and best of luck

pedro nuno
« Last Edit: April 01, 2011, 09:17:10 PM by stickfigure »

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April 01, 2011, 09:08:40 PM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24800827/Test.wav

Here's an updated critique for the huntermusic mix, which I previously felt was very bass-light. Because huntermusic was surprised at this, and was worried that I might have listened to the wrong mix by mistake, I removed the previous critique, and have now freshly re-downloaded the track and double-checked everything. The mix is indeed the same one I reviewed, but I think I may have been rather unclear what I meant, so it's as well to have revisited it. (I'm going a bit cross-eyed here listening to so many different versions of the same mix!) So let me start afresh and see if I can make it any clearer what I mean.

Comparing the mix tonality against the references there's a considerable mismatch, which makes it a little tricky to evaluate other balance/tone issues. How you look at this mismatch is a question of perspective. The way I see it is that the low end of the mix energy appears to tilt away below 1kHz, and I needed to apply about 8dB low boost at 50Hz to bring it more into line with what I would expect. What I didn't make clear in my previous critique, though, is that the kick drum is actually supplying a reasonable portion of low end in the 50-60Hz region, so the track is not without some low frequencies -- it's just that the subjective tone of everything else (which I rather too loosely referred to as 'the mix') feels like it's lacking lows.

As I said, though -- it's a question of perspective. If you turn up this mix so that the low end from the kick feels right, then it might not seem bass-light, but instead overly forward in the higher frequecies (especially around 2kHz or so). Since my original critique, huntermusic PM'ed me to say that he'd applied some mastering-style processing to the mix, specifically to boost the highs (which he felt were lacking), and he also sent me the unmastered version for comparison, which did indeed have 3dB or so less high end. (In reassessing the critique, I therefore decided to go with the unmastered version to make it a little easier to judge other aspects of the mix.) In addition, he mentioned that he'd referenced against some mainstream 'radio rock' acts, so he may well have been chasing a different goal tonally speaking. Taking all this into account, then, let me move on to the other issues in the mix.

The first thing I noticed is that there appears to be some kind of periodic audio glitching going on. Maybe the audio interface latency is set too low -- you usually want a good old buffer size for mix work, given all the processing going on. The vocal feels rather too prominent in the 5-9kHz region without enough hardness in the 1kHz zone, such that the 'f's, 'd's and 't's came across as rather 'spitty' (even though the sibilance appears well under control) and the timbre somehow spongey. When the singer's delivery changes for the choruses, however, the vocal seems to get more centre to it and becomes more appropriate to my ears, albeit with a touch too much sibilance.

It's good to hear tuning being addressed again, although I wonder whether I'm hearing some wobbly side-effects of the correction processing in the verses. It could just be the vocal's modulation effect, but it does feel like it's reducing the sincerity of the singer's delivery. The timing seems a bit tighter in this mix than some others. While I suspect he may have done some work on that, it may also simply be the nature of the balance that's making things groove better -- after all, the thinner-sounding guitars don't impact the rhythm as much, and the kick's very prominent in the balance.

In general the bass guitar feels significantly too low in the balance for me, and given the generally middly choice of guitar tones, this leads to a lack of warmth in the low mids when we hit the chorus. Come the middle sections, I really missed its input in terms of the great slides and melodic riffs it uses to drive this section along. Just lifting the bass fader would make a big difference to this mix, I reckon.

The advantage of the clear, bright guitar tones favoured in general in this mix is that they work well for pulling out all the interesting melodic fragments in the verses/choruses, but without overburdening the mix as a whole. The main disadvantage, though, is that it seems like it's heading too much in the direction of punk for this particular song, and when the overdrive really kicks in during the mid-sections a 3-4kHz peak builds up which I found quite fatiguing to listen to -- I caught myself reaching for the volume knob, which is rarely a good sign! My suggestion would be to rely more on lower frequencies to give the guitars power, rather than majoring too much on the 'bite'.

The snare tone has little difficulty in slicing through the mix, and is commendably resistant to being ducked by loudness processing too. In fact, I reckon it could actually be turned down a little (and probably dipped a touch at 6kHz too) to blend it more with the rest of the kit, and could be treated with a little extra short, narrow reverb just to glue it better with the overheads. The toms feel fairly well balanced, although the low tom's fundamental could be poked down a bit with an EQ notch at its fundamental frequency. While the overheads seem to have sensibly avoided exacerbating any harshness in the guitars unduly, the cymbal stick transients do make their presence felt in a way that somehow makes the cymbal tone appear less full-sounding. I'd usually turn to threshold-independent transient processing to tame this kind of thing, and if you don't have such a plug-in on your own system yet, then there are some affordable suggestions here.

The final main area where I think this mix could be improved is in terms of its feeling of subjective 'size'. The simplest thing to do in stereo would be to widen the image a bit, as it's narrower than it need be. Clearly there are a number of inherent mono-compatibility issues lurking within the raw tracks themselves, but nonetheless I figure there's probably more scope for widening things than has currently capitalised on here. While panning is part of the recipe, there are many other stereo enhancement techniques that might be drawn on, such as those I've demonstrated here. A decent global large-room reverb low in the mix would also help paint out to the edges of the image a bit.

Hopefully I've been a bit clearer in my comments this time. What's interesting is that this mix balance comes across much more strongly on an Auratone (where of course the low-end tonality and stereo width are less of a concern) than it does on my nearfields, so Huntermusic's aim of targeting this mix at radio has in a sense been fulfilled. It also demonstrates that there are already many sensible balance decisions at the heart of this mix, which should only increase in value as the overall mix timbre and 'size' are improved. Thanks for bearing with me!
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April 01, 2011, 10:18:59 PM
hi!
Now I'm here!)
did't read all posts yet... I'll do!)

« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 09:50:18 AM by mlabman »

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April 01, 2011, 11:41:03 PM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24800827/Test.wav
Mikes review...

I just wrote an entire reply only to have my internet application blow up. So I'll start over!
--

Thank you Mike for taking the time to write such a lengthy and detailed analysis. It just goes to show that beyond SOS, you really do care about making the world a better (sounding) place. Ok not punny, but I had to!

For those who have noticed the back and forth between Mike and I, as well as the original frequency spectrum analysis I posted between a Chris Lord Alge mix and my own (to iterate the extreme similarity, and confusion about his “lack of lows” comments), I think it's only fair to give a detailed response to Mike's analysis. Actually, I think it's wise for everyone to do so, that way he can properly understand how the original mix was created and thus have an even deeper understanding of the psychology that goes on in all our heads behind the scenes. This would be a huge help to everyone else, as well.

In private messages to Mike, I sent an unmastered version of my mix without the slightly boosted highs at the mastering stage. I also underlined the fact that I was going in a completely different direction to the reference mixes that were given in general because I felt the song, as it stood, required it. To my ears there was a heavy buildup of the 250hz range in the original mix (creating a lot of boom), and extreme muddiness across the entire frequency spectrum which required the mixer (me) to add clarity and punchliness to make it stand up against modern rock mixes. I personally believe that the bass/guitar sounds that were chosen (or at least how they were recorded) actually take away from the arrangement and the song itself, as they don't really work together to create the particular sound Young Griffo is looking for. The song is there, but the sounds are not. The bass track, for instance, sounds like a guitar at the beginning and has a wide variety of “sounds” throughout the song. Thus, as one example of my decision making process, I made it into a guitar until the first chorus hits. What I really should have done, as I mentioned to Mike, was to re-do the bass and guitars while keeping the melodic and harmonic structure intact. Though, that of course would have taken forever and I didn't want to cross the line into producer (which I am first before a mixer.) Actually, I'm a singer first but that's besides the point.

So, in response to Mike's lengthy analysis, here is my reply (which I copied off a quick print screen before my last reply went poof):

You would be surprised to know that the guitars are actually hard panned left/right rather than where they sound like they're coming from (off centre). I did this because when I first tried to create a full spectrum mix, the original sounds weren’t giving me the rich quality I wanted (gaps across the stereo field while sounding muddy), so I decided to make the mix tighter and more mono. I scarified stereo impact for sonic cohesion and clarity across all frequencies using the original tracks that were given. Had I overdubbed the parts as I mentioned previously, then the entire stereo field could have been filled. This is actually the reason why Mike mentions there is some warbling. The sonic artifacts are really the -actual- instruments coming from the left and right speakers, playing at such a low level that when they peak they sound like a slight click. The various delays and reverb effects are also on stereo returns and thus the sonic cohesion that sounds mono actually aided by the entire stereo field. Had I chosen to overdub the guitars and bass, filling the stereo field would have been easier to do as all the parts could have consistently stayed in their allotted frequency range. I've actually had a hard time listening to a lot of the mixes posted because I'm trying to mentally remove the original boominess to reveal the decisions the mixers have made. There's a lot of really good work being done here, but I feel like it's partially obscured behind the sounds. I was obsessed with removing it.
As for the better timing comment, this was simply a result of letting the band's musical vision shine through. The muddy clutter of the original tracks was taking away a lot of the subtle musicality embedded in the song and as a result it required some drastic EQ'ing -to reduce the muddiness while adding clarity. This, of course, added a lot of peaking in the 3-6kz range which required me to heavily automate the entire song track by track (I bus'd the vocals, guitars, bass, and drums separately) to make sure that no one part was peaking out when the clarity and sonic cohesion was added. I kept trying to thicken the bass sound without being muddy or overbearing to the other parts but unfortunately I couldn't achieve it with the track that was given. So I decided to turn it into a guitar at times! Again, sacrificing the reference mix for the goal of a radio single.

The vocals I pitched corrected, eq'd/compressed (with various methods) and added efx to. I agree with Mike saying that they could be slightly boosted at 1khz. On review of the vocal track sitting in the mix several days after having listened to it, it's clarity is there but I partially skimped on richer lows as I was too busy reducing them in the rest of the mix. The reason they sound more full in the chorus is not the actual vocals themselves but due to the change in sonic characteristics of the bass line. The bass fills out into it's true range during the chorus, the breakdown, outro, and if I remember correctly the second verse, thus it makes the rest of the mix feel much richer. I was walking a very tight line between harsh and rich, mostly because of the bass line. In retrospect it would have been a timelier choice to simply overdub it.

The snare suggestions I particularly appreciate. Getting the right snare sound on any mix seems to be difficult for everyone, and it's good to know I have little trouble in getting it to pop right out. Perhaps listening to this song and mix over and over again made me a little -too- hard hitting on the highs in this respect.

Thank you again to Mike for doing this and everyone else for putting themselves out there by posting their work. I want to hear more! This forum is a fantastic idea and I look forward to participating in it further.

David Hunter - @davidjlhunter (twitter)

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April 01, 2011, 11:41:52 PM
Sorry, double post
David Hunter - @davidjlhunter (twitter)

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April 02, 2011, 12:16:15 AM
Mike,

If you haven't already reviewed my mix, here's a revision.  I went back and tweaked some things.  I'd rather you review this one, but if you've already done the other one, no big.

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

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April 02, 2011, 07:32:09 AM
For those who have noticed the back and forth between Mike and I, as well as the original frequency spectrum analysis I posted between a Chris Lord Alge mix and my own (to iterate the extreme similarity, and confusion about his “lack of lows” comments), I think it's only fair to give a detailed response to Mike's analysis. Actually, I think it's wise for everyone to do so, that way he can properly understand how the original mix was created and thus have an even deeper understanding of the psychology that goes on in all our heads behind the scenes. This would be a huge help to everyone else, as well.

Thanks for posting at such length huntermusic! It's the psychology and decision-making that is often the most seemingly obscure part of the mixing process, so, as you say, it's great to get the discussion going. It's also a well-placed reminder that everything in mixing is relative -- two mixes with different frames of reference can be equally valid while sounding utterly different. Hey, even mixes with identical frames of reference can sound very different, as we've already seen on this thread!
« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 07:34:39 AM by triviul »
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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April 02, 2011, 07:33:04 AM
If you haven't already reviewed my mix, here's a revision.  I went back and tweaked some things.  I'd rather you review this one, but if you've already done the other one, no big.

Will do. I've not got round to yours yet, and may not now until the beginning of next week. Stay tuned!
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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April 02, 2011, 01:23:20 PM
Hi Guys

My first post here...a friend of mine (Vincent) from the online world of music collaboration point me this way after you critiqued his mix.

Been a subscriber and reader of SOS for around 20 yrs now - inspired by Mix Rescue I've spent the last 3 years or so trying to make better mixes for the musicians at our collaboration site.

I only found out about this yesterday and I'm out tomorrow with the family so I didn't have the luxury of the usual amount of time I'd put into a mix...and really I only got about 2/3d's into the song but I wanted a critique from Mike !

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