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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 123484 times)

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April 13, 2011, 12:10:41 PM
Man, that's a painful read, but spot-on of course and a lesson well learnt, not even gonna begin to make excuses....

Sorry if I came across as a bit negative -- it certainly isn't my intention to be nasty! To be honest, I was just slightly embarrassed not to be able to be more constructive :-[ I'll have a listen to the update and hopefully I'll be able to post some more useful comments then.

No, wasn't taken that way at all, I deserved it and it was really constructive. Thanks for having a listen.

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April 13, 2011, 01:16:40 PM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/17888249/Blood_To_Bone__Master.wma

This is a mix very much after my own heart, in the sense that you're clearly looking to expand the scale of the climactic moments, not least by enhancing the musical contrasts. This is certainly the most rich-sounding first chorus we've had so far, and I think its moodiness actually reflects the band's intentions well, despite your own reservations. I'm also very impressed with the thoughtful (and thought-provoking) arrangement adjustments you've employed, including the first proper implementation of a full drop-chorus for Chorus 3. There are loads of great little ear-tickling special-effects features in there as well, which are great for sustaining the interest -- and they seem less out-of-place than in some of the mixes we've heard so far because the stage has been set for them from the outset and they're fairly evenly distributed. The verse vocal tone is also well-managed, even if the 'telephone vocal' idea always carries a whiff of cliche with it these days. Overall, excellent work on all of those things -- you've clearly got more good ideas than most of us would know what to do with!

I'm also impressed with the way you've managed to achieve such a good sense of blend, in terms of the way you've managed to get the kit sounding like a single instrument, and in terms of the way you've glued the drums together with the guitars and vocals. You might want to ease back a little on the lead vocal blend, in fact, simply because I think it could afford to be a bit more upfront than it currently is.

All those good things notwithstanding, there are a number of areas of the balance which could be improved upon, most of which are to do with reducing a sense of muddiness in the mix as a whole. This is partly an issue of mix tonality: it feels like there's rather too much energy around the 200Hz region, and not quite enough at 1kHz or in the top two octaves. However, if you try to compensate for this using master-buss EQ, you quickly find that it's only a comparatively small factor. A big part of the problem I think is that you're relying too heavily on the low midrange frequencies of the bass guitar. Clearly, these are frequencies that are important to bass guitar in general :), but you also need to have enough energy further up the spectrum to maintain audibility against the guitars and vocals. As it is, though, you've (sensibly, I think) chosen to have the bass melody audible in the balance, and the inevitable outcome is therefore that the mix as a whole gets murky. My advice would be to clear some of that region out of the bass guitar, and then give it more character above 500Hz instead -- it'll carry through on smaller speakers that way too.

The guitars also contribute a certain amount to the problem too, I think. Just as the bass could clear some room for the guitars around 200-400Hz, the guitars could also make more space for the bass guitar below about 200Hz. At the moment they're contributing a lot of rather undefined low end which just makes the bass and kick feel less punchy, robbing you of mix headroom for little benefit. The additional overdrive you appear to have applied to thicken the choruses will also be making it more difficult to keep the overall mix tone clear, because it's increasing the high midrange density of the guitars and therefore masking the vocals quite heavily, so that they'll tend to feel somehow dull-sounding unless you pile on masses of EQ. This is a common problem in rock mixes, and there are various different solutions. One thing you can try is actually adding distortion to the vocals in the 3kHz range to give them more competitive density, but the danger there is that you end up making the whole mix sound harsh and fatiguing. The other solution is to punch some holes into the guitar spectrum so that the more important spectral regions of the vocals can pop through those gaps.

The third major issue affecting clarity here is your mix delay/reverb effects usage, which feels like it's overloading the mix at the moment. You could pull back those returns by a good 3dB, I'd have thought, and maybe take 30-40% off the reverb/decay times too. Further clarity gains could be achieved with careful EQ on the effect-return channels, especially high-pass filtering. A good rule of thumb with mix effects is that you should only really notice them when they're muted, and while that might not be quite true of a mix on this kind of epic scale, it's still something to bear in mind. The master limiting you've used to boost the loudness probably isn't helping you either, because it feels like it's set very fast, such that it's ironing out the drum peaks more than should really be necessary, even within the context of this kind of peak-to-average figure.

Finally, there are some serious mono-compatibility issues here, and it sounds like it's on account of your using stereo-widening techniques involving hard-panning delayed copies of your guitar tracks. Just looking at the waveforms in some more exposed sections, it looks like you've applied something in the order of a 1ms delay time. Although this does indeed produce a strong stereo widening effect, the phase-cancellation side-effects in mono are pretty disastrous, and have dramatic implications for the balance in the choruses and mid-sections. The biggest casualty is your main guitar line during the chorus, which drops a large amount in the mono balance. (Just to clarify, the main guitar line in Paulo's mix is what I normally refer to as the secondary guitar line in other critiques, but he's chosen to make it more the bedrock of the chorus sections in his version of the arrangement.)

Thanks for uploading this mix for everyone to listen to. It's another great new angle on this production, and adds a lot of intriguing new ideas to the pot. If you can do more to clarify the sonics, then these ideas will only shine out brighter!
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
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April 13, 2011, 01:50:03 PM
Thanks for the critique Mike, your suggestions were really helpful. Can't wait to see how this works I've been really enjoying listening to all the different takes on the mix.  

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April 13, 2011, 02:43:49 PM
Thanks Mike, I agree with all your critics... One only thing, I did not use any stereo spreader, I don't like them  ;D
I could have done it a little better but I knew about the contest very late and did not have time to polish some issues...

... Much thanks for your input.

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April 13, 2011, 03:10:44 PM
Thanks Mike for the detailed feedback, it's all really useful for me.  I was intending using the double during the chorus but I ran out of time so I didn't throw it in for the first mix as I wanted to tune it and line the timing up first.  I will do that and attempt to address the other issues before submitting my final mix.  Oh and I had some parallel compression with some overdrive on the drums, I will try killing the overdrive :)
« Last Edit: April 13, 2011, 03:14:25 PM by hatliff »

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April 13, 2011, 07:24:23 PM
One only thing, I did not use any stereo spreader, I don't like them.

I've realised what it is. I think you might have hard-panned the multi-mics for that guitar, and they're slightly out of phase. I've just noticed that livingsounds (who I'm just critiquing) has done the same thing.
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 13, 2011, 07:40:51 PM
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)

alright... smashed this pretty good, only because I was in a hurry.

http://www.polydreammusic.com/Young%20Griffo_16.441.01.mp3

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April 13, 2011, 08:35:27 PM
Here's my revised mix for judging, after taking Michael's well thought out advice.  It's not mastered, just mixed, the way I would turn it over to an ME for mastering.  First one is the wav file, second one is the mp3 version.

http://www.box.net/shared/hv5rft62v3

http://www.box.net/shared/e25f388urx

Really interesting listening to the different versions of this mix.  Shows how many directions a song can take in creative hands.  Very fun.  Thanks again to those putting on this contest.  

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April 13, 2011, 09:57:19 PM
www.scherer.de/download/BloodToBoneLS_1_5.mp3

It's official: we've now had everything but the kitchen sink in this competition! The 'rain atmosphere' sample that this mix starts with is the first bit of proper Foley we've had so far, I think. I'd not be surprised if you'd been reading Mix Rescue, actually, because I use Foley stuff quite often for those mixes -- although rarely as prominently as you've done here. Still, I'd suggest rethinking this particular usage for two reasons. Firstly, it's very difficult to fade out of the rainstorm sample without feeling the loss of its natural acoustic signature. (This is why I rarely push ambient effects like this so upfront, and tend instead to use them in a subtler background role, so that they function almost like a sort of reverb.) And, secondly, I think that the fact that this particular sound effect has already been used to death in so many record/film/television productions means that it carries too much emotional baggage from cheesy 'C'-grade ballads and dreadful TV-movie weepies. ::) As such, I'd be worried that you'd fall at the first hurdle when it came to winning Young Griffo over to your vision for the song.

Overall tonality is in the right kind of ball-park, but I'd probably take out a couple of decibels at 350Hz and 3.5kHz, as well as boosting a similar amount around the 1kHz region. Mono-compatibility, on the other hand, is a big issue with the guitar in this mix, and I think it's because (as I mentioned in my last post to Paulo) you've panned the guitar multimics to opposite sides of the spectrum without sorting out their phase alignment. In mono both the main and secondary guitar phase-cancel fairly severely, and although the former comes out of it slightly better than the latter, it still takes a real dive in the mono balance compared with the stereo. The overheads don't fare much better either, so the cymbals suffer a lot of 'air' loss, and the backing vocals also appear to have been widened in a way which leaves them considerably dulled -- flip the mono switch in the outro in particular to hear all this in practice.

Once you factor out those particular issues, however, and look at the stereo presentation on its own terms, it's actually got a lot to recommend it. There's a good combination of clarity and balance, in particular, something which isn't easy to achieve, and I like the way the kick and bass-guitar interact. The lead vocals in general could probably have a bit more body to them in the 800Hz region, while the 12kHz region feels too crispy for me. My guess is that you're pushing this frequency with your EQ to try to give the vocals better clarity, but the reason they're not coming through is that the guitars and cymbals are strongly masking them an octave or two below this. It's only by dialling in some EQ cuts on those conflicting tracks that you'll be able to carve a space for the vocal to really pop through. (That said, a general increase in the vocal level of a decibel or so would also be within reason.) On a related note, the cymbals also seem to be strong in the 12kHz region, and are combining with the vocal sibilance in a slightly unattractive way, so either you should reassess that EQ decision, or look into putting a high-frequency dynamic EQ on the overheads tracks, triggered from the vocal sibilance. (Admittedly, the latter is usually a bit unwieldy to implement in most DAW systems. 8))

I like the snare sound you've got, which has enough brightness, but also a nice weight to it, as well as a certain amount of sustain. The additional snare accents and reverb spins are also an interesting idea, although perhaps fractionally out-of-time on occasion. The toms feel rather low in the balance against the snare, which makes the fills feel a bit odd -- during the lead-in to the first chorus, for instance.

As I've already hinted, I like the way you use mix delay/reverb effects, which is both tasteful and responsive to the needs of the music. My only comment on that front really is that you could probably use more in the way of stereo quarter-note tempo delay to fill out the larger-scale textures a bit more.

So overall, I was actually surprised how much I liked this mix, given the eyebrow-raising opening gambit. Bar the mono-compatibility issues, most of my criticisms are pretty niggly, to be honest. Thanks for submitting the mix!
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 13, 2011, 10:02:12 PM
http://soundcloud.com/stu-brown/btb-new-mix

Hah! :D Not sure how much you've changed about the mix itself, but the difference between this version and the first one you posted is like night and day! And (as I had hoped to be able to say ;D) you really don't need to be hammering multi-band buss processing to get your balance to work. On this evidence I'd say your instincts are already going very much in the right direction. There's also a lot of excitement in this mix, something that wasn't at all apparent before, so well done on that count. The way you've got the tracks to blend with each other is another highlight, and is indicative of a sensible approach to send effects throughout.

Some balance issues could be tweaked here and there. The toms are low in the balance and rather anaemic-sounding. The bass is very strong at 500Hz, and while this makes for excellent small-speaker projection and rhythmic/melodic drive from the part, it does leave the mix as a whole lacking in warmth in the 80-100Hz region. In a similar vein, the kick is balancing very nicely on the small speakers, but I'd like at least 3-4dB more power from it below 80Hz for more full-range systems. The vocals during the choruses could take a step forward too, to improve their clarity, but you may also need to perforate the guitar fuzz a little with EQ to help out further.

All that said, however, this is a mix that already works pretty well on Auratones, so balance can't really be considered a big weakness. Overall tonality could perhaps have a little less 500Hz and 4kHz, as well as maybe a bit of 900Hz boost, but it's also not bad as it stands, notwithstanding the aforementioned low-end issues. Switching to mono doesn't hold many surprises either, although the usually phase-cancellation does dull the tone a fair bit -- it's only the mid-section guitars and chorus backing vocals that really experience significant level reductions in mono, and the music survives those issues pretty well.

Thanks for posting this revised version, because the energy you've brought to this production sets a good benchmark for others on this thread, and the guitar/bass processing in particular makes a very interesting listen. Plus I'm glad that I can actually provide some more positive comments now that I can hear into the mix better! ;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!