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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 189220 times)

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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!

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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.

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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.
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 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.
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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

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April 12, 2011, 09:00:41 AM
The next mix that's come up on my system is from lettenmusic, but it looks like his post to this thread has since disappeared. Are you still out there, lettenmusic? If so would you still like me to critique the mix?

(I won't bite, honest! ;D)
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 12, 2011, 11:11:57 AM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23356772/BTB%20Antmix1%20M1.mp3

Overall the drums don't really feel strong enough in this mix, for a number of different potential reasons. It's partly just that the levels of the overheads and room mic are quite low in the balance, and would probably benefit from additional compression to lengthen the cymbal hits, but it's also that the snare has had quite a lot of low end carved out of it and its sustain lacks energy in the 1-4kHz region -- taken together these conspire to leave it sounding rather slender when the guitars really start swooping in. The toms, on the other hand, seem if anything over-prominent level-wise (as well as being panned outside the kit's image in the overheads), and I'd rethink those within the context of a revised drum balance.

Although the bass feels reasonably controlled here, I do find myself wishing it had a bit more midrange so that I can hear its melodic line. It's a really good part, I think, with a lot of rhythmic impetus to it throughout most of this arrangement, so it would be nice to hear it better, especially on small speakers. The guitars in the chorus feel over-large, in that they seem to be pushing a lot of 300Hz-1kHz into the balance, with the result that the vocals and especially the drums lose too much ground against them. On the plus-side, though, I like that the secondary chorus guitar part is more prominent here than in some of the mixes. In the mid-sections (especially the second) the 4-5kHz zone of the guitars also begins to become too forceful for me, so I'd look at the EQ of the band's additional mid-section overdubs to see if you can tame this element of harshness.

Balance issues notwithstanding, the vocal sound seems nice enough in the verses, although a little too crispy for me at 12kHz or so, an aspect of the timbre that causes real sibilance problems once the chorus arrives. Time for a de-esser there, I think. I do find it a bit strange too that the chorus vocal doesn't appear to have much in the way of long reverb or delay on it, despite the use of this kind of sound for the guitars. Clearly you have to be careful using this kind of patch on a lead vocal, it should be do-able with some predelay and return EQ. That you've decided to ditch the vocal double-track is fine on an artistic level, but does make it trickier to blend the vocal into the fairly lush guitar backdrop.

Beyond these specific things, there are two main areas I'd look to concentrate your continued energies on, and both are in response to an impression of clutter and 'soupiness' that I'm getting -- most strongly in the final choruses, but also elsewhere to a lesser extent. My first suggestion would be to exercise your high-pass filters a little more in order to clear up the low end, leaving more headroom for your kick and bass. I'm getting some rogue subsonics coming though, which is always a warning sign, but in general the combined unwanted low-frequency information is just drawing a bit of veil over what's going on in the low midrange, even despite a definite 300Hz emphasis across the mix as a whole. Try cutting a few decibels out of this region from some of the less important tracks while the whole mix is running, and see if it makes any negative differences. It's sometimes surprising how much cut you can get away with in this context. After all, it doesn't matter what any instrument sounds like on its own as long as it sounds right within the final mix.

The second area that needs some additional thought is the use of delay/reverb effects. To some extent this is an extension of the previous issue, in that it's their low mid-range build-up that's part of the problem. However, I think that you may just be using too many effects. Try backing off all the returns by 3dB and then see if a bit of buss compression can achieve a better sense of size and cohesion instead. I suspect the long decay times of the effects may also be an issue, because I'm noticing a slight sluggishness to the harmony changes in the chorus, presumably as the previous chord's effects overlap the onset of the new chord.

Don't let these criticisms get you down, though, because you've already done a lot of things right, particularly in terms of expanding the dimensions of the production sonics. Once the drums take a step forward in the balance, and the effects a step back, I think a lot of the other things should fall into place quite logically. Thanks for letting us hear your work!
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 12, 2011, 11:15:18 AM
Hi,

I could not resist and tweaked the mix a little bit ... I know at some point you just have to say no :-)

www.polyphon-recording.de/_uploads/BloodToBone-Dirk-Finalmix-2.mp3

Thats the final one ... I promise !!

Greetings
Dirk