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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 213302 times)

  • ***
April 11, 2011, 06:16:31 PM
Here's my Mix http://dl.dropbox.com/u/25109726/Griffo%20Mix.wav

The drums present a respectable overall sound and blend nicely. Adding a little high end above about 6kHz to the whole mix seems to match the references a bit more closely, and also lifts the cymbals in the balance, which is no bad thing, and I think you should probably take this further using the overhead and room faders too. The kick has good cut-though on small speakers, but feels a bit bloated on a full-range system in the 50-60Hz region, such that the hits lengthen unduly and the rhythm becomes a bit laboured. The snare feels a bit too pointy, so if heavy-handed loudness processing of the mix ever smashes the transient back into the balance the instrument as a whole will end up feeling a bit underpowered. I'd look to compression to provide some extra sustain in your case (given the reasonable sense of blend you've already managed), perhaps via a parallel channel to give you more control.

I like the wide, bell-like lead guitar during the verses, although I might just reduce the modulation depth a fraction, because at the moment it's making the tuning feel a bit vague. The bass in the verses, though, lacks a certain amount of definition, which is a shame, I think, as this robs the sections of some valuable rhythmic drive and forward momentum. Once you hit the chorus, however, the bass and guitars really lock together, showing a kind of united front and avoiding the midrange hole that many of the mixes on this thread have exhibited. The bass comes through fine on the small speakers, despite being not as bright as some, so well done there. The overall tonality of the bass/guitars combination does feel a bit heavy at around 400Hz, however, and also perhaps a little too strident at 3kHz.

The lead vocals throughout feel 3-4dB too aggressive in the 3-4kHz region, and I would have liked a bit of extra body to the sound lower down the spectrum to give things more intimacy, maybe around 800Hz or so. Come the choruses, this tonal contour inevitably exacerbates sibilance, and de-essing should be a high priority within this particular mix. Nonetheless, I do rather like the way you've balanced and effected the vocals to give them thickness and blend, sitting them at a level where intelligibility is decent yet without running a risk of making the backing seem small. Another finely-honed balance decision.

The BVs have an interesting sound which contrasts well with the lead vocals, but I think it could be better controlled in terms of dynamics -- the top note of the BV phrase sticks out much further than the rest, and the last note of each phrase feels like too much of a let-down. Such a clear Harmonizer-style sound is also a gamble, just from the perspective of introducing a whiff of the band Chicago -- which I'm guessing wouldn't go down too well with Young Griffo! :)

There's a strong stereo panorama to this mix, but mono-compatibility is a little lack-lustre, with both the cymbals and guitars losing out particularly in the higher frequencies. The main question-mark which hangs over this mix for me, though, is why it sounds somehow rather 'flat' dynamically. I'm not talking long-term dynamics here, which aren't bad (and enhanced by some nice transition effects); it's the short-term dynamic range which feels like it's had too much life squeezed out of it. It's tricky to diagnose the reason for this kind of sound without seeing the project file, but there are several possibilities that immediately come to mind. It's possible that you've been compressing too heavily track by track, using over-fast attack and release times; or you might have applied over-fast buss compression over instrument groups or the fill mix; or you've got some kind of multi-band compression algorithm over the master buss. Whatever it is, I think it's sacrificing too much energy, so I'd try to back it off and then investigate the slower, more obvious full-band buss compression which tends to be more typical for a style like this. (It's possible that your reverb/delay effects processing may also be a factor in what I'm hearing, so do check that you're not overextending decay times, and that you're EQ'ing effect returns to focus them on their most useful frequencies.)

Overall, though, I like what you've done in a lot of respects with this mix, and I'd just encourage you to give your sound a little bit more room to breath.
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  • **
April 11, 2011, 06:50:11 PM
I am a bit late to the party, but here's my submission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2134101/mixoff.org/YoungGriffo-BloodToBone%28RiF%2C2011-04-11%29.mp3

I appreciate any comments from anybody.

I struggled the most with glueing everything together without compressing the snot out of the 2bus...

Because of the guitar-rock vibe of this song, I kept special fx to a minimum to keep it earthy and raw. Just a little thing here and there to keep the attention of the listener.
Too many options kill creativity

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  • *
April 11, 2011, 07:14:12 PM
http://soundcloud.com/telegraf/manwithhat-bloodtobone-mix

You've produced a pretty successful balance overall here, with clear sounds and good separation of the individual parts. I like the delay spins you've used a lot, and the long-term dynamics make a lot of sense from a musical perspective. There are a few straightforward balance issues which I'd want to look at, though: the kick and bass both feel like they're struggling to come through on small speakers at the moment, so might benefit from more mid-frequency definition; I reckon the BVs have been ridden up too far in the outro (although I love the way you've differentiated them from the leads so they don't get in the way), and the guitar solo could probably afford to take up more slack instead; the low tom is booming unduly at the low end, with relation to the kick level. The overall mix tonality could probably do with a bit of tweaking too, as it's light on the 700Hz zone and gets a bit harsh at 4kHz when things really get going. Plus the vocal tuning feels too unstable to support such a prominent place in the balance come chorus time.

These simpler issues aside, the bulk of my remaining concerns all relate to one thing: blend. At the moment the track only really hangs together if you really crank it up, in which case it's means it's having to rely the ear's built-in safety compression and the listening-room acoustics. This is an area that I reckon you could do a lot to improve here, but in doing so you may find that you have to pretty much rebuild your mix from the ground up -- such is the way of mixing a lot of the time, I'm afraid!

The drums are probably the biggest contributing factor. It sounds to me as if you've hard-gated the overhead and room mics, because I can clearly hear two different layers of drum ambience cutting out after the first cymbal hit of the track, and also after the end of the first chorus. In the first instance, it sounds like one of the gates (the one on the room mic?) is also chattering as it closes. While the audibility of this processing could be decreased by giving the gate a longer release, I don't really think you need much in the way of gating on these tracks at all, and the fact that you've applied it here makes me suspect that all the close mics are gated too. Although gating if very useful in live situations to avoid feedback problems, I usually recommend applying it with caution for studio recordings, because removing lots of inter-mic spill on in individual drum tracks tends to suck a lot of the life out of the combined sound, and stops the instruments gluing together into a cohesive kit. In this case this blend issue is exacerbated by the transient-rich snare tone too, which has a high-frequency spike that seems out of character with cymbals, but that's really only a secondary issue for me.

So my suggestion would be to try remixing the kit from a different perspective, trying to treat the spill much more as an asset rather than as a nuisance. If you can bring in more of this natural ambience, then the sound should fill out nicely with a bit of drum-buss compression, and the overall feeling of blend should improve, even without any effects at all. Some of the close mics may still need some short reverb to gel them with the overheads, but this needn't sound like anything obviously artificial if you prefer to gravitate towards more 'raw and authentic' kinds of sounds as a rule. Tying the rest of the tracks into the balance alongside a more cohesive drum sound should be more straightforward, with just a bit of short delay/reverb -- if you've already got the book, then check out sections 16.3 and 17.1 in particular for help with this. You've already got some subtle longer delay/reverb effects in there which work fine, but those kinds of treatments won't create enough of a blending effect on their own.

Thanks for letting us hear your mix. Your instinct for balance already seems well-developed, so I reckon you'll notice the whole mix making a lot more sense once you get more of a handle on the blend angle.

Thank you so much for such an informative critique, Mike.
Truth is, like so many here, I have been mixing mostly my own material for some years now.
I don't usually get a chance to work with a mic'd drum kit, so that angle is new to me, coming mostly from a sampled drums background.
It can be quite daunting to try to get a nice cohesive sound and a pro sheen when it comes to live drums, especially when you are new to it, it's almost like you don't know where to begin and often find yourself unsure of what exactly it is you like or don't like about a particular mic's sound (oh vs. room vs. close, etc.), the bleed and how to use it to your advantage instead of fearing it. True, I did over-gate the cr@p out of the kit, lol, but it's cool, I will get better at it.

Your book had some good insight on how to generally approach these things, which was, in itself, a great little section. There's so much good stuff in there that I had to go get a yellow hi-lite pen specifically for it, lol, haven't bought one of those in nearly 20 years!

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April 11, 2011, 08:38:39 PM
mike, here is my final version which i would like to submit (this is a mix, not a master):
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2216927/misc/Young_Griffo_-_Blood_To_Bone_v1-00_karumba.mp3

i've addressed all the weak points you mentioned & hopefully i could fix them to your taste.
thx again for all your effort!

  • ***
April 11, 2011, 09:39:09 PM
http://soundcloud.com/fixation1/blood-to-bone-mix-uncompressed

The thing that struck me straight away with this mix is its clarity. Right from that first bass-guitar line, you've made it easy to hear inside this mix, so that I can hear lots of nice details (as well as the odd sly little production stunt, such as the panning delay in verse one). It just seems to me as if you've got an instinctive feel for bringing out the inherent qualities of a given track and then fitting it into the mix with EQ such that it doesn't conflict with other parts. This is one of those mixes that really showcases what's there 'on tape', and I found this aspect of the mix to be slightly mesmerising almost. I don't think I've heard anyone make the toms sound so wholesome, for example. And what a great cymbal tail to finish. Basically, you're making it sound like you're mixing a recording that's better than this one actually is! (Incidentally, that's not meant to be a snipe at fHumble's recording, because I think he did a great job within the restrictions he was working under.)

The general balance is also pretty sensible for the most part, although there are aspects of this I'd tweak: the lead vocals could be a little lower in level, I think, and are perhaps also too forward in the 5-9kHz region; the sibilance needs attention in the choruses; the kick drum could come through a bit better on the small speakers; the opening bass tone could probably have a touch more 1-2kHz to give stronger rhythmic cues; the backing vocals need firmer dynamics control and a higher level in the balance, I think; the snare sounds a little boxy, and could maybe have a bit more high end sustain; and I hanker for a bit more of that secondary guitar line in the choruses. Overall tonality is pretty good too, although mono-compatibility could be better as regards the guitars and cymbals. These are all pretty small things, though, because I like a lot of what I'm hearing.

Beyond the fundamental tones/balance, though, I think this mix could still be improved quite a bit in terms of its use of mix effects. It just feels a bit bare and stark at the moment. For a start, the drum kit doesn't seem to cohere very well with the other instruments, even though it blends quite well internally. Although you've already applied some tasteful effects, the drums still sound like they're in a rehearsal room, while the other instruments sound like they're close-miked. This gives a disconcertingly polarised depth picture to the mix, with the drums more blended and in the background and the guitars/vocals right up your nose. Careful use of blending reverb would lend a hand here, and larger room reverb over the drums and guitars would also help teleport the track out of the original basement. I reckon some subliminal stereo tempo-sync'ed delay would also help to fill things out so that you can achieve more 'richness', without sacrificing the clarity that you already have. (Delays will typically be better at retaining clarity than reverbs will.) And of course you could also experiment with additional layers or double-tracks as well, which is a whole new ball-game again.

The bottom line is, though, that this is a great foundation upon which to build further, and I think you should be able to trust your balancing instincts to steer you clear of muddiness and clutter while you experiment with any additional effects and/or parts. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the submission!
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  • ***
April 11, 2011, 09:44:05 PM
Quote
(Incidentally, that's not meant to be a snipe at fHumble's recording, because I think he did a great job within the restrictions he was working under.)

No offense taken at all, I actually didn't record it - I only came in at the mix stage.

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April 12, 2011, 12:27:34 AM
Quote
(Incidentally, that's not meant to be a snipe at fHumble's recording, because I think he did a great job within the restrictions he was working under.)

No offense taken at all, I actually didn't record it - I only came in at the mix stage.

I would take fHumble's comment even further and say we were looking at releasing a very raw, lo-fi indie EP until he got involved. His involvement in drawing out the key elements of our tracks has taught us a lot. We had a clear view of our sound as a band but there was a large gap between our recorded output and our live energy. This is in our own execution of the tracks (even with the efforts of a very good engineer) and in our own preparation when we hit the studio I would have to say. fHumble certainly has helped us understand our key requirements for recording in future too. If I had a dollar for every time we in YG have said -"Next time we record, we should......." I would be a very wealthy man  ;D

Our sound has evolved quite a bit in recent months. We are writing more material and hearing these mixes has been inspiring. We may never want to record Blood to Bone again but I'm loving the directions you guys are taking the track. Several of them would have never occurred to us - and I mean that in the best possible way.

  • ***
April 12, 2011, 07:27:59 AM
http://texas-loud.com/mixoff/GriffO3-mastered.mp3

First of all, while I like the compression pumping on the master buss, which gives things that 'everything fighting with everything else' sensation, I'm less keen on the way the loudness processing in particular feels like it has flattened the mix dynamics as a whole. Don't get me wrong: I have no problem with you applying loudness processing to achieve this kind of peak-to-average figure if you feel that you want it to compete in loudness terms with market competition. My problem is that I think you've settled for an unacceptable degree of processing artefacts in return for the loudness hike -- a slightly folded snare sound, some over-emphasised low-level details (giving a sense of excess reverb and overall mix clutter), and some rather disconcerting level-hike 'bubbles' in transitions (for example during the 'feel like a failure' lyrics both times, and at the end of the track) being the main culprits. My suggestion would be to go back to the loudness processing stage, match the subjective loudness of the loudness-processed signal with that of the unprocessed signal using the loudness processor's Output/Ceiling control, and then toggle the bypass switch. With the subjective loudness change out of the equation, the side-effects of the processing will become much more audible and apparent.

Remaining on the subject of dynamics for the moment, the individual channel and group-buss processing is also pretty heavy across the board, and although the compression is adding a lot of character to the sounds, I'm suspicious that you may be relying on it too heavily for balance purposes, pushing the settings slightly beyond where they sound best in order to nail down each instrument's level in the balance. The chorus vocals in particular strike me this way, and I'd be tempted to back off the compression a bit (or maybe chain compressors to get more transparent gain-reduction) and then make up the dynamics-control shortfall with fader automation. The drums also feel like they've been squeezed rather too much; if you're after that degree of sustain and 'pump', then perhaps more reliance on parallel processing would be advisable. You also need to be careful with heavy compression that it doesn't pull up details you don't want it to: lip noise, fret squeaks, and sibilance -- you've de-essed fairly heavily against the latter, it appears, but the others still need attention.

There are a number of great bits of creative effects work. I love the verse guitar's tempo-delay patch, which makes particularly good sense when it reappears in the reintro, fleshing out that line nicely. (It's often seemed rather stranded to me in most people's versions.) The psychedelic BV modulation effect is another highlight, which really catches the ear. That said, I'm not sure whether these effects remain close enough to the band's original intent. Clearly only they can answer that, but if I'd been in your situation designing them, I think I'd probably have filed them under 'great, but use some other day', rather than gambling on comparatively short odds here.

Beyond that, the balances and timbres you've used are broadly in line with my own preferences, and you've taken care to mult/automate some important parts, such as the kick drum. (Maybe dial in just a touch less beater on the chorus kick, though.) The snare drum is probably the biggest question-mark for me, because you've gone for a very trashy kind of sound that steps a bit too far outside naturalness for me. Rock drums are never really natural as such, of course, but they still need to hang together into a kit, and the snare here feels a bit too lo-fi and 'stuck on'. Although you could just try tweaking the sound you've already got, or adding more effects, my preferred course would be to strip it back entirely, listen to the track without it, and then try to rebuild a tone from scratch that fits in with the arrangement more easily.

It's difficult to pick apart mix-effects usage given the heavy master-buss processing, but I suspect that you might be over-egging the pudding a little with those too. The guitars in the choruses lose out most to this, such that we're left with lots of size and power, but at the expense of considerable blurring of the sonic details of the original recordings. Try shortening some decay times in the first instance, and also try turning different effects on/off while the mix is playing to remind yourself how much each is contributing. Listening to the mix without the drums may also help you examine the effect balances of internal parts more critically.

Overall tonality is pretty good in the main, although I might pull back a couple of decibels around 450Hz and raise the top end above 1kHz a couple of decibels too. The characteristic 1-2kHz peak in the backing vocals tone slightly overcooks this frequency range in the chorus balance for me as well, so perhaps there might be something else going on there that could be EQ'd to clear some space for them in that region. Switching to mono brings about a significant loss of high end on the cymbals and pushes the chorus guitar riff in particular rather too far back in the balance for me.

Thanks for letting us listen to your mix. As much as I think you can still refine your compression tactics, I do like the assertiveness of the vision you've presented here, as it tallies with how I imagine the track too.
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  • ***
April 12, 2011, 08:46:33 AM
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=1156764

Not sure whether you intended it this way, but you've managed to submit a mix with no stereo information whatsoever. (Mono-compatibility's fantastic, though! ;D) The mix tonality is well-judged, though, and I agree with a lot of what you've done with the general balance. I like the cymbal pumping on the drum track, which I'm guessing you brought about with parallel compression, because the rest of the drums seem to be nice and punchy. In fact, I'd suggest that the snare could perhaps be a little less punchy in a transient sense, as it has difficulties blending like that, even factoring in the effects of any down-stream loudness processing. I'd perhaps compress it a certain amount on its own, which might give it a touch more sustain too. The same might be said of the high tom too, which pokes out too far, while the low tom if anything needs to come up.

The kick is great in the verses (a lovely tight, urgent-sounding low end), but lacks a bit of small-speaker cut-through in the midrange -- you could just dial that in during the thicker textures. The cymbals seem to lack a touch of air at the high end, although I would imagine that this may partly be a result of phase-cancellation between the two sides of the overheads during the mono summing process, so EQ may not be the most effective solution to this.

In the intros/verses it feels like the rhythmic bass-line is rather understated, which seems to me to be wasting an opportunity for rhythmic momentum. Or maybe the problem is that the lead vocal and lead guitar feel maybe a bit too high in the balance at these points, although I do like the level relation between those two lead parts. The guitar riff and vocals in the choruses also strike a nice balance for me, although the secondary guitar line does rather lose out.

The vocal sound works better for the choruses than in the verses, where a little more lower midrange would draw the listener in better, I think. The chorus vocal treatment is doing quite a good job at blending, but you can hear on the 'feel like a failure' lyric that it's introducing a slightly phasey 'telephone booth' kind of sound that's not particularly attractive, possible as a result of the mono summing again. Sibilance is possibly also a little over-zealous at the moment, especially in the context of the air-loss on the cymbals. Mono-summing may have done the dirty on you backing vocals too, which struggle to be heard -- I'm assuming they've been balanced on the low side in stereo because of hard-panning.

Beyond these things, I think there's still more you could do to fill out and glue this mix, and top of my list would probably be getting buss compression involved. I tried this on my system with an SSL quad compression emulation and it sounded promising, but I suspect that there's also lots you could do in terms of incorporating tempo delay effects in particular -- at the moment everything feels like it lacks some sustain and warmth, which is something tempo delay can supply without washing everything out.

Despite the mono presentation, this mix is pretty respectable in my view, and I like a lot of the sounds and balances you've got going here. I think it's the 'back end' of the mixing process (buss processing, global send effects, automation) which would benefit from the greatest attention now, because that's where you can really push the mix beyond simply providing a solid balance. Thanks for posting!
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 12, 2011, 08:52:42 AM
http://soundcloud.com/fixation1/blood-to-bone-mix-uncompressed

The thing that struck me straight away with this mix is its clarity. Right from that first bass-guitar line, you've made it easy to hear inside this mix, so that I can hear lots of nice details (as well as the odd sly little production stunt, such as the panning delay in verse one). It just seems to me as if you've got an instinctive feel for bringing out the inherent qualities of a given track and then fitting it into the mix with EQ such that it doesn't conflict with other parts. This is one of those mixes that really showcases what's there 'on tape', and I found this aspect of the mix to be slightly mesmerising almost. I don't think I've heard anyone make the toms sound so wholesome, for example. And what a great cymbal tail to finish. Basically, you're making it sound like you're mixing a recording that's better than this one actually is! (Incidentally, that's not meant to be a snipe at fHumble's recording, because I think he did a great job within the restrictions he was working under.)

The general balance is also pretty sensible for the most part, although there are aspects of this I'd tweak: the lead vocals could be a little lower in level, I think, and are perhaps also too forward in the 5-9kHz region; the sibilance needs attention in the choruses; the kick drum could come through a bit better on the small speakers; the opening bass tone could probably have a touch more 1-2kHz to give stronger rhythmic cues; the backing vocals need firmer dynamics control and a higher level in the balance, I think; the snare sounds a little boxy, and could maybe have a bit more high end sustain; and I hanker for a bit more of that secondary guitar line in the choruses. Overall tonality is pretty good too, although mono-compatibility could be better as regards the guitars and cymbals. These are all pretty small things, though, because I like a lot of what I'm hearing.

Beyond the fundamental tones/balance, though, I think this mix could still be improved quite a bit in terms of its use of mix effects. It just feels a bit bare and stark at the moment. For a start, the drum kit doesn't seem to cohere very well with the other instruments, even though it blends quite well internally. Although you've already applied some tasteful effects, the drums still sound like they're in a rehearsal room, while the other instruments sound like they're close-miked. This gives a disconcertingly polarised depth picture to the mix, with the drums more blended and in the background and the guitars/vocals right up your nose. Careful use of blending reverb would lend a hand here, and larger room reverb over the drums and guitars would also help teleport the track out of the original basement. I reckon some subliminal stereo tempo-sync'ed delay would also help to fill things out so that you can achieve more 'richness', without sacrificing the clarity that you already have. (Delays will typically be better at retaining clarity than reverbs will.) And of course you could also experiment with additional layers or double-tracks as well, which is a whole new ball-game again.

The bottom line is, though, that this is a great foundation upon which to build further, and I think you should be able to trust your balancing instincts to steer you clear of muddiness and clutter while you experiment with any additional effects and/or parts. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the submission!

Thanks for the critique Mike!!

I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to give your feedback, and it's brilliant to hear really constructive critisism from someone who has a lot of experience. I'll most definitely be experimenting with all the suggestions you've made.
I think some of the eq suggestions you mentioned confirmed a suspicion i had that i'd bracketed a few instruments far too literally ie. bass and snare.
Needless to say i'll be getting myself a copy of your book!

Thanks again Mike!

Dave