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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 202266 times)

  • ***
April 09, 2011, 02:03:47 PM
So I guess what I'm asking is when is Young Griffo gonna pick the Mix (Producer) (not just "Failure") for their album, and if so when is the expected date?

Glad you're liking some of the critiques, and I agree that it's getting a bit of a brain-melt comparing all these different versions of the same mix! The competition closes on the 18th, and I'd hope to announce a winner (and runners up) in the following few days, in consultation with the band. Whoever tops the list, though, we're all winners really, because we're creating something together that I think will help all of us with our own listening and mixing skills, as well as providing a unique educational resource for future readers.

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I propose the best mix...mixes the other tracks for the album

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the band end up approaching someone from this thread with regards to further collaboration, because they've been extremely impressed with the quality and variety of different ideas everyone has brought to the table.

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P.S. I ain't changin' shit! I love my subs! Keepin' it deep, down and dirty!

That's what I love about hearing this many mix versions, because you can really hear people's individual personalities coming through. The world would be a boring place if everyone's mixes sounded the same, so I'd hate to think that my opinion would stop any of you doing what you feel needs to be done for the music! ;D
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  • ***
April 09, 2011, 02:16:11 PM
http://soundcloud.com/pc999/young-grifo-blood-to-bone

The overall mix tonality here is a bit of a sticking point, I'm afraid, which makes it difficult for me to judge many other aspects of the balance. You've got masses of 200-800Hz, which gives the whole production a rather boxy sound, and the response drops away very steeply below that, such that the low end feels very lean compared with the references. Trying to bring out the low end better using EQ over the whole mix reveals that lowest LF information in the mix is coming from the bass, but this only extends to about 80Hz, leaving the bottom two octaves of the spectrum largely untouched. In most people's mixes the kick's low end has been used to fill out this region, but here it sounds as if the kick has been high-pass filtered at 100Hz or higher so that doesn't help out here in the same way. I can see that you might have had trouble dealing with this with mastering processes, and that's usually an indicator that something in the mix is fighting what the mastering is trying to do.

The kick drum also feels very quiet in the drum balance for this style, and doesn't make much of an appearance even on small speakers. The snare, on the other hand, has a different problem, namely that it has some kind of fairly extreme stereo effect going on. I'm not sure what it is, but it's making it very difficult to work out where the snare is coming from, which is disconcerting to listen to in stereo and also causes a big balance/tone shift when you move to mono listening. The cymbal image is also pretty wide (and suffers the same kind of issues in mono, albeit to a slightly lesser extent), which makes the very narrow tom-track panning a bit puzzling relatively speaking.

The guitar sounds are pretty respectable, without any danger of harshness, although the mono-compatibility is again a little suspect -- I think it's probably those multi-mikes causing phase-cancellation issues again. The bass feels like it could do with quite a lot more dynamics and automation control, because it's really jumping around in the balance. In music like this the bass needs to hold its position in the balance with supreme confidence, especially given the comparatively interesting line played here. The vocal sound is doing a reasonable job on the whole, but it does appear to have been gated with too high a threshold -- you can hear the gate cutting off softer consonants in the verses, such as the 'f' sounds of 'flawed' and 'fraud'. There's no real need for wholesale gating of the lead vocal in this track, because any bits of extraneous lip noise between phrases are so easy to edit out or remove with fader/mute automation.

The effects seem to me to be rather reverb-heavy, where a more even blend of delays, reverbs, and wideners would probably achieve blend and size more successfully. The reverb choices you've made could probably be reassessed too, because they feel like they're pulling everything rather a long way away from the listener. (A bit of a dip around 4kHz in the overal mix tonality doesn't help with this either, of course.) Choosing the preset/algorithm you start work from is an important step in the process, so don't rush it, and then make sure you give enough time to EQ and predelay in the effect-return channels.

Overall, the impression I get is that you're trying to overreach yourself here, in terms of getting into detailed processing and effects before you've really given the tracks a chance to speak for themselves. Alternatively, it might just be that you were feeling a bit rushed by the impending deadline and tried to push on too fast with your normal mixing process. My recommendation would be to try putting together the best mix you can of this track using just faders, mults, high-pass filtering, polarity inversion, and phase adjustment -- no other EQ, compression, or effects. Once you've got the best raw balance you can like this, compare it to the references to get your bearings and refine it further. The longer you hold off adding in any other processing, the better I think you'll develop your instincts for what instrument should be where in the mix -- and the more sense the other more complicated processing decisions will start to make.

Thanks for letting us hear your work!
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  • ***
April 09, 2011, 03:24:24 PM
http://www.box.net/shared/pp5d3a0zbz

Interesting bass tone this, with its characteristic 500Hz and 2kHz response peaks, which means it takes more of a midrange role than in some of the mixes. The advantage of this is that it really brings out the instrument's melodic and rhythmic features, thereby driving along the verses and mid-sections in particular. The main downside of this, though, is that it does make the 400Hz region of the mix as a whole feel a bit overcooked to me, and the vocals and mid-section guitars in particular feel as if they lose out in this region unnecessarily if I attempt to compensate for the production's tone with mastering-style EQ. The low end of the bass guitar feels like it lacks a certain amount of power and warmth, so a little more information in the 100Hz region would perhaps help there, bridging gap between the kick foundation and the low midrange of the guitars, and allowing you to pull back slightly on the bass's 500Hz region while still maintaining the importance of the instrument in the balance.

The kick tone is great for the choruses, but I might pull the HF back a little for the verse, where it feels a bit too perky for the lyrical sentiment. The snare comes across as somehow too trebly in relation to the rest of the instruments, and I would personally tone that down a little bit, making up any lost feeling of overall brightness in the mix with a master EQ shelf if necessary. The overheads could probably be higher in the mix, because their cymbal accents are probably too reticent. Other than that, though, the general balance is very strong in this mix, and pretty much everything comes across well on a single small speaker, bass and kick included, which is a significant achievement. That said, I reckon the verse vocals in particular will balance better if you give them a bit more lower midrange, as I've already suggested. Mono compatibility is reasonable for most of the main parts, but the overheads and especially the mid-section guitars do lose some of their sense of 'openness' in mono, which I'd probably try to improve with phase adjustment if possible.

I like the way the backing vocals are balanced against the lead parts in terms of overall level, but I wonder whether a slightly less solid BV tone (less information at 1.5kHz, for example) might slot them into place more neatly, with less potential for confusing the lead-vocal line. Some tuning correction would probably assist with this too. These vocals are too upfront for me as well, which makes me think that some kind of blending reverb would be a sensible addition. The snare is another part which appears to have troubles from a blend point of view, and while toning down the high end (as suggested above) will probably help a little with this, I think some additional short ambience reverb might pay dividends when it comes to gluing it in with the overheads. Some smoothing of the snare transient might also improve matters in this regard.

Overall, though, well done for putting together a pretty solid balance in what sounds like less than ideal circumstances!
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  • ***
April 09, 2011, 04:46:15 PM
http://www.box.net/shared/95votqk69f

This is another mix with a lot going for it. There's generally a very good sense of balance, and the mix tone is also pretty well-judged, albeit with an overall tilt towards the low end -- the high end feels roughly 3-4dB down by comparison, I'd say.

I like the stringiness of the bass guitar tone, which keeps the instrument well up front in the verses, and makes sure it doesn't get lost in the thicker chorus/mid-section textures. The bass is also pretty well balanced throughout too. Perhaps I might not ride it up as much you have in the second half of the first mid-section, but it certainly draws the ear that way. The guitars are well controlled and not over-harsh when you hit the mid-sections, which is good, but I do hanker for a bit more 'poke' at around 900Hz for many of then, particularly the main chorus riff. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far with the vibrato-style effect on the main verse guitar, not because I don't like the widening effect in principle, but just because it makes the tuning appear to droop for me.

The drums are all nicely balanced, I think, and there's enough overheads in there to give it a bit of excitement and splash. The kick's particularly good, coming through well in stripped-back and full-on sections alike, although I wouldn't mind a little more mid-range cut-through for the small speakers when things really get going. The snare is the part I'd be most inclined to adjust, because it seems like you're adding something like distortion around 4-5kHz which makes it quite abrasive, especially during the verses. I'm not against distortion for snare processing in rock mixes (it's quite a common recourse of mine, in fact), but I'd personally suggest EQ'ing the resultant spectrum to tuck this area into the balance a bit more. That being said, this sound does have a great ability to cut through the texture in the choruses, and mid-sections because of its thick sustain, so try not to remove that ingredient of the recipe at the same time. Maybe automating the level of those frequencies for different sections might have some merit?

The vocals maintain a respectable level in the mix most of the time, but I wonder whether they could just come forward wholesale throughout the mix -- maybe up a decibel, with a couple of decibels less reverb. At the moment they seem a bit too blended into the mix, which means they're being sucked back into the texture more than I'd hope. Your tuning work helps a great deal with the chorus blend, but I'd probably still get the editing tools out and try to deal with the consonant flams there too if you can, because intelligibility is getting a bit blurred, and I'd like to be clearer about the words if possible. Again, a little more overall level may help here, although I imagine that some careful automation may be required as well.

I like how you've contrasted the LVs and BVs here, and the tone of the BVs stays well out of the way too, which is great. The jury's still out on whether the extra harmonies are in keeping with the track as a whole -- I kind of like them myself, but they do seem to add a hint of euphoria that doesn't appear to sit that well with the lyric. The little vocal fly-ins in the outro are nicely restrained -- great little production touch, that, without being too flashy.

You've already made some attempts to support the long-term dynamics, but I reckon you could probably go significantly further with this, particularly in terms of being a little more sparing with the verse effects, so that you have more subjective room for manoeuvre when you want to increase the scale of things later. The final chorus entry does seem to take quite a big step down in energy too, as has been an issue with many of the mixes we've heard so far.

Mono compatibility is good on this mix overall, although at the expense of some stereo width in the guitars which is a little bit of a shame, especially because the greater width of the overheads and toms then feels a little strange by comparison.

All in all, this is a great effort -- a nice combination of solid balancing with tastefully creative sound-design and editing. Good job!
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  • *
April 09, 2011, 04:58:50 PM
Hi Mike. Did you miss my second bite at the mix (having found the missing low octaves!) in post #157? I can't see any response to it, but it might just be me doing something dumb!

  • ***
April 09, 2011, 06:34:24 PM
Hi Mike. Did you miss my second bite at the mix (having found the missing low octaves!) in post #157? I can't see any response to it, but it might just be me doing something dumb!

I'd not got round to having a listen yet, I'm afraid -- I'm having to prioritise first-round critiques at the moment. When those are done, though, I'll try to have quick skate through the revised mixes as well.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
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  • ***
April 09, 2011, 08:28:16 PM
Here is my mix: http://soundcloud.com/studioimp/studioimp-younggriff
I haven't done any mixing for a while and found this very enjoyable.  I would appreciate any feedback anyone has for me.

Just realised I've skipped over you and critiqued Berk13's mix first -- I got confused with all the download links and everything. Sorry! I'll get to you first thing on Monday.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
A complete mixing method based around the techniques of the world's most famous producers.
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  • ***
April 09, 2011, 08:35:34 PM
http://soundcloud.com/manuelbernal   

This is one of the wetter mixes we've had so far, but the balance in general is nonetheless very nicely managed on the whole, and there's also a nice sense of dynamics, both in the short term and in the longer term. In particular I think this may be the best mix-only solution to the final chorus entry I've heard so far, which you've pulled of by a clever sleight of hand: by recessing the meatier midrange guitar frequencies during the mid-sections and keeping a firm lid on the bass (it's normally inclined to eat the rest of the mix for breakfast in the second mid-section if left to its own devices), you've then given the main chorus guitar riff much more impact by making sure it's rich in the very midrange energy that the mid-sections were lacking, and the bass doesn't feel a let-down either. An impressive solution to the problem without recourse to overdubs. (And I thought it wasn't possible -- oh ye of little faith! :))

The bits of this mix that convince me the most are the larger-scale sections, where the richer effects landscape really comes into its own to make the production full and epic-sounding. The snare is a highlight for me, because it manages to make its presence felt strongly, without being either very bright or very spiky -- it's got that elusive midrange sustain that I've already mentioned so often, achieved comparatively conventionally in this case with judicious compression and reverb, it sounds like. For my own tonal preference I'd prefer it to have more high end to bring it more in line with the brightness of the cymbals, but it already functions perfectly from a balance perspective as it is. The kick, toms and cymbals fit together beautifully too, with the possible exception of the low tom, which does seem to boom a little on occasion. I also wonder whether the cymbals might be a bit rich in the 5kHz region, especially in the middle section and outro when the guitar tones get more strident. Switching to small speakers does reveal that the kick doesn't survive too well there, however, so I'd be tempted to give that a bit more high end for the choruses at least.

I've already alluded to the quality of the bass-guitar processing, but it really is exemplary -- rock solid control and a lovely rich sound, but without overloading the low midrange such that the guitars have no room for their own warmth frequencies. It also comes through beautifully on small speakers.

So far so good. However, there are a number of areas where I think improvements could be made. The first main point I'd make is that while the heavier use of reverbs has its benefits in terms of making the very biggest sections of this mix impressive-sounding, I think that the effects are perhaps making the whole production sound a little too smooth and lush. It's not that I don't like 'smooth and lush', but this is a rock band carrying a bucketful of angst, and it seems like it's getting slightly sugar-coated. Back off the returns by a couple of decibels and give the mix a little more overall compression, however, and I think you'll find yourself back on the right side of the line there. More of an issue, is that I think that there's not enough contrast in the effects use from section to section, which waters down the verse/chorus dynamics for me. Get the automation going and pull back some of the more epic treatments for the verses in particular -- it's surprising how effective this can be at breathing extra life into an arrangement.

In addition, I think you could maybe have a bit more front-back depth going on by varying the send levels a little more between different tracks, especially in terms of the vocals, which feel like they could take a good couple of steps forward in the balance. However, I don't think it's only the reverb levels which are holding the vocals back, so I'd probably bring their fader up at least a decibel across the board into the bargain. The vocal tuning could be tighter too, in the choruses especially, and the consonant flams between the lead and double-track are still a bit distracting for me. The sibilance feels a bit out of control on the choruses too, so it's probably time to get busy with a de-esser. The chorus BVs are quite nicely done in terms of having a greater sense of distance than the leads, but I'd weed out a bit of their low mids to avoid clogging up that area of the mix. You've made an interesting choice by panning them to one side only, but it does rather imbalance the stereo picture for me -- there's nothing on the other side of the image performing a similar duty. I suppose you could say that they're balancing the riff guitar, but it doesn't really feel that way to these ears.

Overall tonality might benefit from some tweaks: I found myself adding a couple of decibels at 900Hz and 8kHz, and dipping out a little 3kHz too, to get closer to the Thrice reference, for instance. I'd also have a close look at the phase relationship between the overhead mics in particular, because the mix feels like it's losing a lot of 'height' in mono.

Criticisms aside, though, this is a really nice-sounding mix in a lot of respects, so thanks for sending it in. You've pushed the sense of size about as far as anyone has so far, and it's great for everyone to hear a good example of the possibilities available there.
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!

  • *
April 09, 2011, 11:32:29 PM
Hi Mike. Did you miss my second bite at the mix (having found the missing low octaves!) in post #157? I can't see any response to it, but it might just be me doing something dumb!

I'd not got round to having a listen yet, I'm afraid -- I'm having to prioritise first-round critiques at the moment. When those are done, though, I'll try to have quick skate through the revised mixes as well.
No problem. Just thought I'd better check. I've left the original mix in my Dropbox for anyone who wants to make the comparison. I'm still scratching my head as to how the bass ended up so lacking in the first version TBH. Very, very odd...

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  • *
April 10, 2011, 01:33:43 AM
http://www.box.net/shared/95votqk69f

This is another mix with a lot going for it. There's generally a very good sense of balance, and the mix tone is also pretty well-judged, albeit with an overall tilt towards the low end -- the high end feels roughly 3-4dB down by comparison, I'd say.

I like the stringiness of the bass guitar tone, which keeps the instrument well up front in the verses, and makes sure it doesn't get lost in the thicker chorus/mid-section textures. The bass is also pretty well balanced throughout too. Perhaps I might not ride it up as much you have in the second half of the first mid-section, but it certainly draws the ear that way. The guitars are well controlled and not over-harsh when you hit the mid-sections, which is good, but I do hanker for a bit more 'poke' at around 900Hz for many of then, particularly the main chorus riff. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far with the vibrato-style effect on the main verse guitar, not because I don't like the widening effect in principle, but just because it makes the tuning appear to droop for me.

The drums are all nicely balanced, I think, and there's enough overheads in there to give it a bit of excitement and splash. The kick's particularly good, coming through well in stripped-back and full-on sections alike, although I wouldn't mind a little more mid-range cut-through for the small speakers when things really get going. The snare is the part I'd be most inclined to adjust, because it seems like you're adding something like distortion around 4-5kHz which makes it quite abrasive, especially during the verses. I'm not against distortion for snare processing in rock mixes (it's quite a common recourse of mine, in fact), but I'd personally suggest EQ'ing the resultant spectrum to tuck this area into the balance a bit more. That being said, this sound does have a great ability to cut through the texture in the choruses, and mid-sections because of its thick sustain, so try not to remove that ingredient of the recipe at the same time. Maybe automating the level of those frequencies for different sections might have some merit?

The vocals maintain a respectable level in the mix most of the time, but I wonder whether they could just come forward wholesale throughout the mix -- maybe up a decibel, with a couple of decibels less reverb. At the moment they seem a bit too blended into the mix, which means they're being sucked back into the texture more than I'd hope. Your tuning work helps a great deal with the chorus blend, but I'd probably still get the editing tools out and try to deal with the consonant flams there too if you can, because intelligibility is getting a bit blurred, and I'd like to be clearer about the words if possible. Again, a little more overall level may help here, although I imagine that some careful automation may be required as well.

I like how you've contrasted the LVs and BVs here, and the tone of the BVs stays well out of the way too, which is great. The jury's still out on whether the extra harmonies are in keeping with the track as a whole -- I kind of like them myself, but they do seem to add a hint of euphoria that doesn't appear to sit that well with the lyric. The little vocal fly-ins in the outro are nicely restrained -- great little production touch, that, without being too flashy.

You've already made some attempts to support the long-term dynamics, but I reckon you could probably go significantly further with this, particularly in terms of being a little more sparing with the verse effects, so that you have more subjective room for manoeuvre when you want to increase the scale of things later. The final chorus entry does seem to take quite a big step down in energy too, as has been an issue with many of the mixes we've heard so far.

Mono compatibility is good on this mix overall, although at the expense of some stereo width in the guitars which is a little bit of a shame, especially because the greater width of the overheads and toms then feels a little strange by comparison.

All in all, this is a great effort -- a nice combination of solid balancing with tastefully creative sound-design and editing. Good job!

Thanks.  :)  This was a strange song for me to mix, I felt it needed additional things but I didn't want to add them cuz I felt that was more a role for a producer than a mix engineer.  Wasn't familiar with your column before this (don't read SoS), but I enjoy very much doing what you're doing, rescuing mixes.  Thanks for putting in all the work, I bet you'll never want to hear this song again after the contest.  ;D