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Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 122783 times)

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March 25, 2011, 03:00:08 PM

4. The loudness of the mix will not be a contributing factor in the
competition judgement. However, the way the mix might respond to
typical loudness processing (in line with market expectations for this
style) will be.

If a mix is "unmastered" will loudness processing be the only "mastering" process applied to it during the judging phase?

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March 25, 2011, 04:52:22 PM
If a mix is "unmastered" will loudness processing be the only "mastering" process applied to it during the judging phase?

Yes. As far as a single is concerned, the ideal situation would be that the mastering engineer would have to do little else.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
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March 25, 2011, 06:21:39 PM
Ah I misread that the first time, I did mix so that it worked well with mastering, but also submitted it with the mastering limiter on.


If a mix is "unmastered" will loudness processing be the only "mastering" process applied to it during the judging phase?

Yes. As far as a single is concerned, the ideal situation would be that the mastering engineer would have to do little else.
www.mikeslatermusic.com
Certified Pro Tools Operator
15" MBP, Apogee Duet, M-Audio BX5a's

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March 25, 2011, 07:35:59 PM
Here's my mix, tried some new limiting techniques. It's nothing special, just a basic EQ. Not much pan goin on, but I hope you guys like it as much as I do.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24395697/gagemix.mp3

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March 25, 2011, 10:04:34 PM
thank you very much for the detailed critics. you mainly nailed all my weak points. just some comments from my side. i did no automation here up to know, since i'm doing automation always at the end, normally when the client approved that my mixing-direction is fine.

Fair enough, but I've found it risky to allow long-term dynamics issues to reach the client. They have a more powerful effect than a lot of people realise, I think.

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after i've read your comments & hearing the mix again, i've planned to make these changes:
- less high-klick on the the kick during softer parts
- try to make chorus 3 more interessting (maybe some FX stuff)
- feature the solo in the outro
- push the vox a bit more in the chorus
- try to automate the fret squeaks
- pan the right guitar a bit more to center
- try to optimize the snare (maybe i need to blend with a triggered snare here)
- some slight vox optimization

All this sounds sensible.

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with "vocal tuning" you meant pitch?

Yup.

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do you plan also to provide a mix at the end?

I don't think I'll end up mixing this track myself, just from a time perspective, but I'm already in discussion with the band about taking on another track of theirs for Mix Rescue, and I think that many of the same issues will come up there.
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
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March 25, 2011, 10:09:51 PM
Here's my mix: http://www.unseensound.com/BloodToBone_Lastrite_01.mp3

Thanks for this mix. Another solid showing! On to the comments then...

Firstly, the opening fade-in feels a bit odd. Not sure what the purpose of this is, because it feels to me like it works better coming in unfaded. Anyway, that's a really small thing. In general, the balance is very strong, and I like that you've kept the vocals nicely audible throughout. (Although there's nonetheless some room for improvement here using micro-automation -- the vocals are still rocking backward and forward a bit on my Auratone.)

The audible vocal effects create a nice individual sonic fingerprint, but I think I'd probably try to duck the returns a bit in response to the vocal to avoid masking it too much with its own effects. At the moment it feels like the vocal's slightly veiled. I think you might also EQ the effects returns a little to tuck them a little more behind the vocal itself, and to slightly declutter the bass/guitar details. I'd almost certainly dip out some top end to keep the effects in the background.

Your tonal decisions are pretty much laser-guided, and the overal mix timbre matches the Thrice record particularly well. I'd personally try sneaking a bit more low bass power in there, as well as a little more air, but that's a judgement call. More of an issue is the presence region, and I think you could tone down the 4kHz zone a little, because it begins to grate on the ear a bit at higher volumes, especially during the middle section where the cymbals and guitars are thrashing away against each other. One of them needs to give a bit of ground, I reckon.

I think you could work more on your send effects, in particular using short blend reverb to gel the snare and vocals better with the rest of the backing, and using simple eighth-note tempo-sync'ed delay to give the vocals and guitars more sustain, especially during the more expansive sections, which feel like they could do with a few extra vitamins compared with the verses. (I tried adding a single-tap eighth-note delay over the whole mix to test this theory out, and I was surprised how well even such an unrefined approach worked on this mix.) Don't forget to EQ those effect returns carefully, though! Giving the kit (especially the kick and snare) a bit of parallel compression might also help, as these instruments are sounding a bit slender once the guitars and vocals really get going.

As far as long-term dynamics are concerned, there's still quite a bit that could be done to underline the track's natural ebb and flow. The backing vocals feel underused in this context, and you could certainly ride overheads, drum room, and effects profitably -- or else get busy with some mults. Again, the final chorus entry is the killer moment to get right in this mix, I think, and it doesn't quite lift off here yet.

One final point: I suspect that you may be monitoring a little too loud. This often leads to an undervaluation of blend and sustain requirements, as well as a tendency to undercook the frequency extremes. It's important to monitor loud from time to time, but most real-world small-studio monitor systems start to get less reliable if you make a habit of pushing them too hard as a matter of course. Your ear more easily plays tricks on you too if you monitor loud most of the time.

Overall, though, this is another sterling effort. It's great to hear so many things done right!
Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio
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March 25, 2011, 10:16:44 PM
http://soundcloud.com/slater05/blood-to-bone

Happy to see someone try their hand at editing things here, but while shortening the first instrumental chorus is an idea which I can see some good reasoning for, by the same token isn't the reintro a bit to long too? I agree that it's tricky to come up with a coherent editing strategy for this song once you open up that can of worms, which makes me wonder whether editing isn't the whole solution to making the structure as a whole work.

In terms of balance, it feels like the guitars are too loud in the stereo balance (but probably a bit quiet in the mono balance, as discussed below!), but otherwise most things seem pretty well-judged. I like the body to the snare sound, which gives it a nice sense of weight to compete with the guitars, but it does then end up sounding a bit dull-toned compared to the cymbals. The bass fret squeaks poke my eye out at times, but it's nothing a little automation couldn't solve. The floor tom seems to have too powerful a fundamental, and risks eclipsing the kick in the fill in the middle of chorus 2, for example. As far as overall tonality is concerned, the bottom three octaves or so of the mix feel light overall, though, and I think this is more the fault of the bass than off the kick. I think you could afford to put in a good 3dB of extra low end without bloating it out. The upper octave 'air' band also feels underplayed, and could benefit from some livening up.

There's a lot of interesting effects stuff going on. I really like the delay spin you've got going on the verse lead vocal. Very effective, and actually longer than I'd have thought of going for -- good idea! I like your concept of thickening the chorus vocals to contrast with the verses, although it sounds like something's getting a bit scorched in the process. It's not a particularly pleasant distortion, so I'd try to troubleshoot the gain-staging there if possible. This effect certainly helps with that tricky transition into the start of the final choruses, but the downside is that things begin to feel a little cluttered in the choruses as a result, and I'd recommend reassessing the EQ on the guitars, backing vocals, and effects returns during that section to see if some well-targeted narrow-band cuts might clarify things and bring out the details more. The vocal effects also recess the singers well behind the drier guitars in the mix, which doesn't seem quite right.

Whatever effect you're using to widen the guitar parts is causing fairly serious mono-compatibility problems, which means that the balance changes a good deal between the stereo and mono mixes. Even if you disregard this issue, though, having such wide guitars in this particular stereo mix is also problematic on the basis that it emphasises the narrowness of the drums and their ambience.

My biggest criticism can be summed up in one word: blend. Although there's lots of good EQ and effects work going on here, the parts just don't feel like they hang together, especially in the verses. The width issues I've already mentioned have a part to play here, but short 'ambience'-style reverb or delay slapback would the first things I'd look to add to this mix, to try to make things gel together more convincingly. Again, the overall tonality and blend issues here make me suspicious that you might be monitoring too loud for too long.

I'm glad to see that a certain amount of multing and automation has already occurred, but I think there's quite a bit you could still do in terms of nailing down the lead vocal intelligibility. I also wonder if the final backing vocals could come more to the fore once the lead is out of the way, as they do have a nice little line of their own, and there's nothing else going on in the outro to keep people any better entertained.

Thanks for submitting this -- it brings a lot of great ideas to the table that haven't been explored by the other mixes so far, and also dares to reevaluate basic issues of structure and balance. And as every mix engineer knows, mixing is often a case of 'who dares wins'!
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March 25, 2011, 10:22:59 PM
http://soundcloud.com/thfmix/bloodtobone-thf

There are a lot of good balance and EQ decisions here -- all the parts feel full-sounding without getting in each other's way unduly. The bass is lovely, and gets through on the small speakers well. Nice kick sound in the verses, but maybe doesn't cut through enough when things really get going. Backing vocals once again feel underplayed, and I suspect that compressing them a bit more stiffly might make it easier to push them higher in the mix. As it is certain notes are leaping out of the balance more than others. The guitars feel like they could be louder in the choruses, especially at that critical moment at the start of the final choruses, and they could possible be more present too -- they're somehow a touch soft-sounding to me.

The snare is nice and punchy in the mids, but lacks high-frequency density and sustain, and feels quite 'dead' in the fuller sections of the mix. This is an issue that is likely to cause everyone some effort, simply because the drum overheads have captured quite a dull snare sound, while the close mic is, well... a close mic ;D, so it's never going to give you real sustain and character to the sound. It strikes me that layering something like a meaty stereo tambourine sample with the snare in the chorus might actually be something to experiment with in this track, but that's only one possible solution...

I like the overall mix tone a lot -- it matches Thrice nicely, there's enough going on at the extremes to give the hi-fi listener a good time (maybe a sprinkle more air?), and you can mostly afford to turn it up good and loud before you start sand-blasting your ears. Good call here, I think.

Love the autopan effect on the guitar -- a good 'outside the box' solution to providing width in the verse arrangement without incurring stereo imbalance. In general I like the way the stereo picture fits together, and there's a nice overall width to the mix, although at the expense of some mono compatibility -- especially in the upper frequencies of the drums. I also like the way this mix blends. Very tastefully done on the whole. (An exception is the reintro, where the drum fills feel rather dislocated. It also highlights some unevennesses in the timing that I'd probably look to smooth in some way.) However, I think there'd be more scope for automation here to expand the chorus sound, especially by riding room ambience and effects sends on the drums. There's also the danger of things getting a bit abrasive during the first of the mid sections, and automation might help there.

In all, then, another very capable mix, and although there's some room for improvement in the balance and long-term dynamics, I nonetheless found it curiously compelling on an emotional level -- there's something indefinable about the way it coheres into a piece of music that goes beyond the sum of the parts. Nice work!

(Just noticed one more thing while reviewing another of the mixes. I think you might be compressing the bass with too fast-acting a compressor, because it sounds like it's breaking up a bit. Or are you multi-band processing it? Certainly the fret noises seem well controlled. Whatever -- there's something that doesn't seem quite right in the intro to me, and I think it's a compression thing.)
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 09:23:18 AM by triviul »
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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March 25, 2011, 10:29:26 PM
Just to add that I'll probably only get back the critiques at the start of next week now, but I'll try to deal with people in the order they posted -- themuzic next!

Given that there will inevitably be some time-lag between people posting their mix and me posting my critique, I suggest that we extend the deadline for competition submissions by a week, while keeping the deadline for the mix-critique submissions the same. That way everyone should hopefully have the opportunity to adjust their competition submission in response to the critique if they wish.

Does that sound sensible John?
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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March 25, 2011, 11:08:34 PM
Just to add that I'll probably only get back the critiques at the start of next week now, but I'll try to deal with people in the order they posted -- themuzic next!

Given that there will inevitably be some time-lag between people posting their mix and me posting my critique, I suggest that we extend the deadline for competition submissions by a week, while keeping the deadline for the mix-critique submissions the same. That way everyone should hopefully have the opportunity to adjust their competition submission in response to the critique if they wish.

Does that sound sensible John?

Sounds good to me, I'll update the original post to reflect that change!