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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 191940 times)

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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.  

  • ***
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!
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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
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April 13, 2011, 10:24:03 PM
I just want to take the time to say thanx to John and Mike. You guys rock! John, I've been looking for a decent mixing website for a while and I'm glad to have stumbled upon this one. Even though this site is still pretty new its brought a lot of Mixheads together to do the thing we love to do! MIX! Mike....I'm surprised your still sane after listening to the same song over....and over...and over again, and then taking the time to write paragraph after paragraph about everyones' highs and lows. I'm glad your part of this cause its not everyday we can have a professional give us the insite to helping out the amateur to get better without having to go to school and spend hundreds of dollars in a time where money's tight, gas is at it's all time high and the world is suppose to end next year. Music is one of the things that helps get me thru the day and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.....So hats off to both of you! ;D

-Monkey
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April 13, 2011, 11:16:44 PM


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!


Thanks alot, Mike! I used the rain foley because I felt there needed to be something else going on in the beginning beside the bass, and coming up with what I originally envisioned (sort of a rainstorm sound getting filtered out) was too time consuming to do.

I spotted the mono-compatibility issue in the other mix, but not in my own... ;-) I've used a couple chorus plugins to make it more stereo, but this obviously didn't work. I don't understand the rationale behind recording the same guitar with different mics but no actual double tracks, maybe the Griffos can chime in here?

Thanks for the rest of the critique, too Mike, it's been really helpfull!

BTW, there's not a single delay in my mix, just reverb, clearly a mistake, I know.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2011, 11:19:18 PM by living sounds »

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April 14, 2011, 01:22:28 AM
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

That's great Mike, thanks so much for doing this so quickly. Really glad you think there's some excitement in it, was aiming for a simple sound that erm.... rocks. I guess the bottom end issues you mention this time are the result of me being overly cautious but I hope you'll understand my new found paranoia about those frequencies! Also interesting you mentioned 4khz, had already carved that out a bit but can obviously go further, which is good, always worried about harshness/dullness balance, still a tricky one for me. Good call on the chorus vocals too, hadn't noticed that before. Also, please don't think I was offended or anything by your first critique, it is a painful read but only because it's so embarrasing and it was all true. And I did find it very constructive, afterwards spent some time studying Adam Kasper's mixes for QOTSA with a spectrum analyser and used one of them as a guide. So went back a few previous versions for this mix and dumped my two day old Voxengo plugs that I didn't know how to use [not blaming my tools mind you] and started again, and glad I did because I learnt a lot. And all of your mentions of the Auratone inspired me to dig out an old crappy speaker and do most of the mix on that in mono so was hoping that it played ok on your system. May not have the stomach to go back and apply your suggestions to my mix, or not now at least, I think my dash is truly done on this song, but thanks for doing this, it's been really interesting and educational.

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April 14, 2011, 07:45:46 AM
I don't understand the rationale behind recording the same guitar with different mics but no actual double tracks, maybe the Griffos can chime in here?

It's a sonic thing. By using two mics rather than one, you can get more of the sound of the amp, and by printing them to different tracks you get to completely reinvent the timbre at mixdown if necessary using nothing more than phase-cancellation. As for double-tracks, although the band didn't officially record any, I imagine it'd be pretty easy to edit together some decent 'fake' double-tracks given that there's a certain amount of repetition in the chorus lines in particular. In fact, I'm surprised how few people have given that a go, as it's probably one of the first things I'd have tried myself.
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April 14, 2011, 09:43:46 AM
http://soundcloud.com/robinmarder/blood-to-bone-young-griffo

The overall tonality of this mix feels a little hilly to me in the 300Hz and 12kHz regions, while the 1-2kHz midrange frequencies seem recessed. A little more low end below 100Hz would also make sense too, I think, although you should also get busy with high-pass filtering on individual tracks at the same time, because there are some fairly useless subs coming through at the moment between the kick hits, and there's no sense in boosting those at the same time. There's a 2-6kHz emphasis to the kick and snare which may be misleading you here, because those tracks give the impression that the complete mix is over-played in that region, whereas the rest of the individual tracks don't really seem to be. It's an odd effect, that one! Toning down the brightness of both of those close-mics would help with this, and would also improve the blend of the kit, although don't go too far with rounding off the kick in the chorus, because that does need a certain amount of energy above 500Hz if it's going to cut through the mix on small speakers. I wonder whether you're using some kind of distortion on the snare too. Although I'm not at all against this in principle, there is an abrasive quality to the snare sound currently which isn't that pleasant, and if a distortion is what's causing that then I'd look at trying to EQ the distortion separately to smooth it out a bit.

Beyond those drum issues, I suspect that you might have cut a little too much midrange out of the overheads, because the cymbals feel rather thin and hissy. Bringing those frequencies back into the mix will also help with the blend of the snare and toms, neither of which glue particularly successfully into the kit as a whole as it stands. That said, I wonder with this mix whether you're doing a little too much boosting, and not enough cutting, because there's a certain brittleness to the drums in particular which I often associate with too much boosting (especially with CPU-light digital EQ plug-ins). When I mix, usually about 80% of the EQ bands I use are cuts, and if you get into the habit of working that way you're less likely to fall foul of the loudness bias when balancing.

The bass and guitar tones and balances are pretty solid for the most part, although I'd be tempted to give the bass a little more lows, because it feels too lightweight against the kick. The mid-section bass also becomes too emphatic in the higher frequencies, which adds a certain grittiness there despite the fairly well-judged guitar tones -- especially in mono where the panned guitars inevitably take a step back in the balance. The main guitar riff in the chorus feels a bit underwhelming too, both in terms of level and midrange presence. It's a hooky in its own right, so it's a shame not to hear it clearly.

Vocals are crispy in the 10-12kHz region, and although you've managed to control the sibilance fairly firmly, I still feel that a bit more midrange in conjunction with a small fader hike would help them feel a bit more solid in the mix. They do blend quite nicely, though, despite the usual tuning/timing concerns. Overall effects use seems fairly successful, although there's a hint of overall muddiness in there that might be attributable to low-end reverb tail (rather than just unwanted low end components on individual dry tracks). The cymbals' mono-compatibility seems to be better than on some mixes, but the guitars do still become rather woolly-sounding when the left and right channels are summed, so I'd probably have another look at their multimic phase relationships.

Another interesting mix this, and already pretty accomplished as it is, certainly from an overall balance perspective. It's mainly EQ and phase-matching that you should concentrate more on to really snap it into focus, I reckon. Thanks for posting!
 
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April 14, 2011, 10:38:39 AM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/12572442/YoungGriffo_BloodToBone_gLOW-x.mp3

Love the opening synthy sound! Really atmospheric and unsettling, and works nicely with the general vibe of the music for me. However, I'd somehow expect it begin fading out from the first drum entry rather than waiting for the vocal -- don't know quite why, though! Maybe it's because the entry of the vocal isn't such a big arrangement change as the entry of the drums/guitar, so provides perhaps less of a transfer of interest from that perspective.

The kick and snare are both struggling to punch through the thicker textures of this mix, but for different reasons: the kick doesn't quite have the mid-range energy to punch through on small speakers, while the snare doesn't have enough lower midrange 'oomph' to sound meaty next to the guitars and vocals. In addition to this, however, I'd probably turn up the drums buss as a whole by a couple of decibels, and then ease those drum peaks back into the balance with buss compression. That way you'll get more subjective cut-through for similar peak levels, because the strong drum hits will effectively duck the rest of the backing slightly.

Overall tonality is generally well-judged, although the vocals in feel like they're focusing too much on the upper octave and not enough around 700Hz or so, and so come across as slightly hissy even though the sibilance is still just about within my comfort zone. (In fact, a similar thing could also be said about the drum overheads.) I wonder also if the bass has perhaps a bit too much going on in the 100Hz region in this mix, although it might be the warmth of the kick down there that is making it appear that way. Whatever it is, I reckon that it might have encouraged you to take too much low midrange out of the guitar parts in response, which means that they don't come across as powerfully as I'd hope they would. This is a critical balance issue in rock music of any kind, and one that many mixes here have struggled with, so be sure to give it the time it needs, and perform some mults if necessary to deal with the textural changes in the arrangement.

Speaking of mults, I suspect that mults might be particularly useful on the bass in this mix, as it doesn't really hold its place that consistently in the balance at the moment -- it seems to be ducking and diving a bit. A bit more compression will help too, I imagine, but one setting may well not work for all the song sections here, judging from what I can hear on the raw multitracks. More compression might also be sensible for the backing vocals, which always seem either too high or too low in the balance, despite a promising tone.

You've already used some send effects quite sensibly, but I figure you could make more of this aspect of the production, in terms of filling out the sound. A bit more not-too-bright and not-too-long large-room reverb would probably be of benefit, as would stereo tempo delay. Just watch out for clutter, because things are fairly clear at the moment and it would be a pity to sacrifice that aspect of the sonics. The overall stereo picture makes decent sense in stereo, but the guitars and cymbals suffer quite badly from phase-cancellation in mono.

Thanks for letting us have a listen! Despite my few criticisms, you've made lots of sensible balance decisions already, and therefore I think you may find that a few simple EQ and effects tweaks will make a big difference to the final results.
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April 14, 2011, 11:34:46 AM
http://soundcloud.com/javy_a/blood-to-bone

The first thing that really strikes me with this mix is that the snare is way out front, and much louder than I'd suggest having it in the mix. The transient is the biggest culprit, but even if I hammer that back into the mix with hurricane-force limiting, leaving only the sustain elements, the instrument still feels overpowering even in the final choruses. This sense of imbalance is exacerbated by the roundness of the kick timbre you've chosen, which doesn't provide enough competition in the midrange to really make sense of the rhythm on smaller speakers. The inherent sound of the snare also feels rather out of character with the rest of the kit, with a boxy 350Hz emphasis, and if it's proving tricky to get anything more in keeping then I'd suggest exploring triggered samples as an alternative. The rest of the kit seems much more appropriate, although the wide-panning of the toms still seems a bit odd to me, and you could maybe afford to dip a couple of decibels out of the overheads at 3.5kHz to combat a touch of harshness that's creeping in during the mid-sections in particular.

The bass isn't as warm as on some of the mixes on this thread, and could therefore do with a bit more action sub-200Hz (I especially notice this in mid-section 2), but it's nonetheless very well controlled and translates splendidly onto small speakers. Guitars are also pretty well managed, especially in terms of avoiding harshness, but again I'd think of sneaking in a little more low midrange if you can do so without introducing too much muddiness.

I like what you've done with the chorus lead vocals, which are quite full and smooth-sounding with a pleasant width to them in stereo, although there's some distracting stereo flamming going on with some consonants as a result, not helped by slightly out-of-control sibilance. They're probably too high in the balance overall as well, I reckon, because they're making everything except the snare feel rather small by comparison. The backing vocals have a nice tone too, but need to be more firmly controlled dynamically if they're going to balance well from moment to moment, and they could probably lose some of their low mids, which make them feel a bit too 'big' compared to the drums and guitars in the outro especially.

Given the issues with the snare and vocals particularly overshadowing the rest of the rhythm section and guitars in the balance, it's no surprise that you've encountered difficulties getting the long-term dynamics to support the ebb and flow of the song. However, even with the balance aspects sorted out, the guitar texture you've created in the chorus is always going to have difficulty competing with the end of the second mid-section unless you either reassess the chorus's EQ or add some additional layers at that point.

As far as overall mix tonality is concerned, I'd suggest pulling out a little 350Hz, and then adding in some 800Hz and general HF 'air' -- there's a slight boxiness to the sound otherwise. Mono-compatibility could be improved too, with the cymbals and backing vocals both taking on rather a muffled sound in a single speaker, so if you were able to go back and have a look at what the inter-channel phase is doing there that would be great.

This is one of those mixes where it feels like your own musical impulses are maybe getting in the way of putting together the most successful balance, because a lot of the tones are fine, but their relative levels aren't quite meshing yet to give a really good ensemble sound. A bit more switching between different monitoring systems would probably help you a lot here, I think, as it tends to refocus your ears on the technical level-balance issues irrespective of the tone quality of each individual instrument. Hope this all makes sense, and thanks for posting!
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