News:

Please begin sharing multitrack files as FLAC files. Read more here!

 

Author Topic: Mixoff Contest with Mike Senior - Win Mike's New Book!  (Read 202181 times)

  • ***
April 05, 2011, 07:52:40 AM
Been a subscriber and reader of SOS for around 20 yrs now - inspired by Mix Rescue I've spent the last 3 years or so trying to make better mixes for the musicians at our collaboration site.

Glad you've been getting something out of the Mix Rescue columns. It certainly sounds like you have from this mix! ;D

On the whole the drums are nicely balanced and blended, with a good sense of dimension to them. I think the cymbals probably have a touch too much 10kHz, because they get a little wearing at higher volumes and overshadow other parts in that region excessively for me. The sustain you've got out of the snare is fantastic, and it holds its place well in the track, but I'm not sure the sound you've chosen really fits the kit or song that well in a wider sense, and I have some misgivings about its blend within the kit. The kick is also a bit of a sticking point for me, because (for want of a better description) it isn't really serious-sounding enough for me. It's quite flappy and lacks low end compared to most of the renditions so far. The sound of the kick can have a huge impact on the way a track is perceived, and I think this choice is making things a little too upbeat, given the lyrical subject material. There's an impression of gated reverb on the snare too, which when combined with the lightweight kick and prominent bright chorusing/reverb effects conjures up a strong flavour of the late 80s for me. While this is a period of music that I have a lot of time for, Young Griffo don't seem to me to be the kind of band that benefit from a connection with the kind of artificial shininess that tends to infuse sounds of that era.

You've made the bass nice and tuneful in the track, without bloating out the low end (although I might pull out a decibel or two at 100Hz), which is great -- love it! It really helps drive the track along. Do deal with the fret squeaks, though, if you can. The guitars are also good, although again perhaps a little too watered down with effects for the style. Mono compatibility is a big problem as regards the main chorus guitar riff, the level of which suffers badly in mono. The bright vocal effects also become a bit phone-booth-y in mono, and the 'air' on the snare/cymbals loses some of its sheen too.

The chorus vocal tones are pretty good, although with some overprominent sibilant whistling still to be taken care of in the 10kHz region. The verse vocal, on the other hand, feels rather too thin and waspy for me, such that I'm finding it difficult to connect with it on an emotional level. Give it some more 900Hz or so and I think it'll already work a lot better. Vocal tuning is still on the 'to do' list as well, of course.

Despite these issues, I have to say that this is probably one of the most exciting versions I've listened to so far. The bass presentation, the liberal drum-buss compression, the fullness of the effects (although there's a risk of clutter during some fuller sections), and the nice transition stunts (the lead-in to the choruses, for example) are all clearly part of the recipe, but I also wonder whether the timing has been tweaked somehow too, because things seem to bounce along really well. What this mix has which so many of the mixes so far don't is a real forward momentum. The long-term dynamics are rather well-judged too, especially in resisting the temptation to rock out too far in the mid-sections so that the final chorus still has enough firepower to compete.

Thanks for sharing this with everyone. There's a lot to be learned from your overall methodology in this mix, even for those who don't agree with the aesthetics of any specific sounds/effects you've used.

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 05, 2011, 09:07:25 AM
Here's my mix: http://www.box.net/shared/xyy1fzue0m

"Walk away from the Scissors Tool with your hands in the air!" :) You're certainly not shy of editing things around, and I'm delighted to see someone really pushing this aspect of the production as far as this, because it constitutes a useful test of concept. Your reasoning seems pretty clear and defensible to me: the vocal is the star, so it should get in early and then remain in view as much as possible. It's particularly interesting to hear the song with vocals in the first chorus, because I'd almost certainly have done something with vocals there too, and I'm actually surprised that no-one's tried it before now. However, the outcome of your reasoning is that we end up with a short total duration of 2:20, as you've already mentioned in your post. Although this works for Blur's Song 2, and might indeed be made to work for this song as well, I'm not sure that it's actually playing to the song's strengths -- and might also rub most bands up the wrong way too! "Where's my guitar solo gone?!" :) While I agree that the raw multitracks do tread water to some extent at all the moments you've cut, I reckon there's only so far the editing solution will get you in practice.

So if you can't edit, what are the alternatives? Well, my instinct would be to try to make subsidiary hooks out of some of the non-vocal features that are already there, such as the guitar riff in the reintro and the outro solo. I'd also look at possibilities for making more of the backing vocals as a general concept, and get busy trying to re-use hook phrases and ideas from the lead vocal elsewhere in the mix wherever interest appears to dip. I'm not saying I wouldn't do *some* section edits in your position, but it's a question of degree.

Returning to a sonics, the first main thing which hits me is that the guitars all feel too slender, and lack a good deal more power below 1kHz. Remedying this, however, will probably involve reducing the kick energy in the 300-600Hz region to make way, so that things don't start getting too woolly. I like the snare sound you're getting here, although it does feel like the transient is pushed rather too high in the balance. Try rounding it off a bit with a limiter or saturator and see if it sits better that way. The cymbals need a good old helping of compression, in my view, as the low-level detail is getting lost, and the crashes are fading out too quickly. The bass tone has plenty of warmth, but I'd be tempted to give it more midrange to allow it to cut through better on small speakers. (The kick also has trouble competing with the snare on small speakers too, so adding some extra click in the fuller sections would probably be a good idea, even if you want to leave it rounder in the verses.)

Given the focus on the vocal for editing purposes, I was surprised you didn't allow the singer to have a fuller and more involving tone for the verses. Clearly the choruses don't have much room for this kind of sound, but that's no need for the verses to feel at all anaemic. A bit of boost around 2kHz, a more flattering compressor, a hint of stereo width, and some ambience reverb could work wonders in very little time, I reckon. You've maintained the vocal balance well maintained though, as it is, particularly in the choruses, where the lyric intelligibility is great.

Effects are an area which could probably do with a bit more work, I think, because the blend of the drum kit and the mix as a whole isn't terrific, and I suspect that adding more sustain and size-illusion would help further your vision for the track. Overall tonality is a bit thin, and more energy in the general region of 500Hz would help here, as would taming things a bit at 10kHz -- the cymbals in particular are rather sharp for me there. You lose quite a lot of 'air' from the cymbals and vocals in mono, but the guitars don't seem to fare that badly.

You mentioned that you were worried about the low end. This will have been very difficult to judge on the cans and Tapcos, and I'm not sure that typical hi-fi speakers are likely to be any more revealing here -- it's not uncommon for hi-fi equipment to hype the low end. As far as I'm concerned the bottom octaves feel about right to me, especially as there's often a fair bit of variation between different engineers in this respect.

Thanks for posting this mix. Your exploration of the possible edits is very instructive indeed, and although you could do more to inflate the sonics here, you've nonetheless done a good balancing job so far.
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 05, 2011, 09:54:06 AM
Glad you've been getting something out of the Mix Rescue columns. It certainly sounds like you have from this mix! ;D

It's often the first section I turn to when it lands on the doorstep each month....really useful read combined with the audio from the SOS site


 The sustain you've got out of the snare is fantastic, and it holds its place well in the track, but I'm not sure the sound you've chosen really fits the kit or song that well in a wider sense, and I have some misgivings about its blend within the kit.

Thanks, I was pretty happy with the snare and tried to make it sound quite deep with a big boost in the LMF. Initially when I hear the raw tracks my gut instinct was that it maybe wasn't recorded with the right snare and I'd be trying others during the session. Can you reference or describe a snare sound that you think would work better and explain how you would intergrate it further with the kit?

There's an impression of gated reverb on the snare too, which when combined with the lightweight kick and prominent bright chorusing/reverb effects conjures up a strong flavour of the late 80s for me. While this is a period of music that I have a lot of time for, Young Griffo don't seem to me to be the kind of band that benefit from a connection with the kind of artificial shininess that tends to infuse sounds of that era.

LOl  ;D  Can you guess a persons age from their mixes. 80's & 90's was very much my era..I thought all that was coming back  ::)

The kick is also a bit of a sticking point for me, because (for want of a better description) it isn't really serious-sounding enough for me. It's quite flappy and lacks low end compared to most of the renditions so far.

Well I had it beefier to start with , then I went and listened to a few of their references and came away with the impression ( rightly or wrongly ) that it wasn't that prominent in some of the songs they liked, so I tried to sit it above the bass and try to make the bass driver the track along instead. I also ended up rolling some bottom off the whole mix when I heard it the next morning just before I posted it.

Do deal with the fret squeaks, though, if you can.

Now this is one of my bone of contentions - I actually like to hear little things like fret squeeks and a little breath noise, I think it adds character...after all it's Rock N Roll not the Royal Philhamonic  ::) alot of my favourite recordings have little bits of noise on that could be taken out ( think Beatles/ Oasis etc )  but I think are best left in and not oversanitised :P   A good debating point for sure  :)

Mono compatibility is a big problem as regards the main chorus guitar riff, the level of which suffers badly in mono.

I think I know why that is now, I used Brainworx Shredspread set fairly wide to give the chorus guitars a lift and I I forgot to check the mix as a whole in mono until it was too late. I have the guitars opposite panned, so do I try inverting the phase of one of them or is there a more elegant solution ? Or is it just the plugin that needs it's mono gain turning up ? I will try it.

Vocal tuning is still on the 'to do' list as well, of course.

I actually did some just to nudge it into shape, again not a huge fan of overdoing it - I find the overuse/abuse of Autotune etc. really puts me off alot of modern songs - I don't remember people complaining in the 70's - 80's & 90's about poor pitch on vocals ( though I did have WTF moment the first time I heard " Don't you Want Me " by the Human League...with those female vocals ...now considered a classic :o ) so I'm on the fence about that one. To be honest I didn't really hear anything major in the vocals that made me want to dive into the pitch correction plugins, actually they're one of best vocal performances I've had the pleasure of mixing so maybe my viewpoint is skewed.


Despite these issues, I have to say that this is probably one of the most exciting versions I've listened to so far.


That's made my day because "exciting" was kind of what I was going for  :)  :)  :)  really chuffed with that, makes the countless hours reading about mixing in SOS worthwhile.

but I also wonder whether the timing has been tweaked somehow too, because things seem to bounce along really well.

No, I didn't tweak anything on that front at all...I try to avoid it unless things are obviously out and need rescuing, maybe it the 8th note delay buss which I rode into the mix at certain times that help.

What this mix has which so many of the mixes so far don't is a real forward momentum. The long-term dynamics are rather well-judged too, especially in resisting the temptation to rock out too far in the mid-sections so that the final chorus still has enough firepower to compete.

Thanks I always try to do that with my mixes, I usually start out with quite a low level on the DAW Output meters and turn the monitors up more ( Adam A7's )  but I find it gives me enough headroom when levels start creeping up without me feeling I'm not mixing loud enough.  Domestics mean I can't monitor that loudly anyway and with this one I ended up doing the last part on headphones which I loathe to do but I only had one night to meet the deadline.

 I usually end up with 10 or 12 subgroups that I do alot of automation on so on this one for instance when the chorus hits I rode up room mics, brought in a much more distorted bass track that I'd multed, rode up the kit global ambience return, the vocal FX send and the Shredspread fader and then pulled them some ( or all for the bass ) of the way back for the next verse.

I use a Presonus Faderport to do alot of the rides and then tidy them up afterwards. The automation lines in Sonar's buss view often end up looking like some crazy Undergound Tube Train Map but I remember reading somewhere once that if your faders are static your mix will be too and my original mixing experiences came from working live with my friends 10 piece band where riding the faders was part of the set almost. ( still have my well thumbed copy of Live Sound Mixing by Duncan Fry bought from the SOS mail order section  ;D )

Thanks for sharing this with everyone. There's a lot to be learned from your overall methodology in this mix, even for those who don't agree with the aesthetics of any specific sounds/effects you've used.


Haha , thankyou for doing this Mike it really is a mammoth undertaking - I should be alright as long as we don't play it anyone born after about 1990 I reckon  :D

CD
We never finish a mix - We simply abandon them.  Adam A7's , Focusrite Pro24 DSP, Focusrite LiquidMix, Presonus FaderPort, Sennheiser HD250 Linear II

  • ***
April 05, 2011, 10:26:32 AM
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22196972/BloodToBone_mixerJB.wav

I do like the jangly tone you've opened the tune with, and it immediately demanded my attention. However, I wonder if it's just a little too bright, because it does make the drums and guitar sound a little underwhelming when they arrive, which would be self-defeating in the long-run.

Overall, this mix has some similarity with huntermusic's inasmuch as it has a good deal of super-low kick energy, but with something of a spectral 'gulf' between that and the low end of the bass/guitar conglomeration. First things first, I would personally be reluctant to put that much sub on a kick in a track as fast as this, simply because it will tend to lengthen the hits and blur the part's details. Depending on your monitoring situation, it's very possible that the sub levels could also impact on your ability to balance the rest of the track reliably, and it does seem to me as if the whole rest of the spectrum has been tilted treble-wards a certain amount to counterbalance the low end. I'd reset whatever low-end enhancement you've dialled in, and try investigating what the 80-90Hz zone has to offer instead. It might not cause your lava lamp to walk along the meterbridge anymore, but I suspect it'll give you more subjective bounce on big speakers, while translating more of the power of the drum onto smaller systems. (It's not that you can't hear the kick on small speakers at the moment, though, because the part's coming through very well in the higher midrange, it's just that it feels a bit lightweight in those circumstances.)

If you approach the kick-drum more along those lines, I think it'll quickly become more obvious that the low end of the bass and guitars need nudging up below 200Hz or so to warm them up. That said, the bass is really nicely controlled and it cuts through wonderfully on the small speakers, while the guitars are kept out of each other's way so that the texture remains pretty clear throughout, and nothing starts sand-papering my ear canals come the mid-section either. (That said, maybe the cymbals could be softened slightly in the 10kHz region during the outro, when the solo guitar hits.) I'd like a bit more of that secondary guitar part in the choruses still, though.

I like the way you've dealt with the lead vocals a lot. They feel chunky enough to command the track, but not so big that they upset the well-judged balances. There is a little too much sibilance for me, though, so it'd be worth putting a de-esser into action. I also like the way you've flown in the BVs in the reintro, and the harmonies in the chorus are interesting, even though they perhaps draw undue attention away from the lead in the grand scheme of things -- although that might just be me having heard the track hundreds of times now without them. The vocal tuning and timing does still need work.

By choosing to keep a fairly compact stereo picture, you've managed to maintain decent mono compatibility, which is great. However, although you do paint out to the edges of the picture in stereo, it does nonetheless feel a little bit too constricted for me, and I'd probably try to introduce more non-essential stereo widening tactics -- some wide stereo background hiss might be a worthwhile thing to try, for example, although be careful not to overemphasise the 10kHz cymbal danger zone.

Thanks for getting involved with the competition. This mix already works very well on an Auratone, which says a lot about your balancing skills, and you've made the long-term dynamics work pretty well too. Your job now is to try to retain those advantageous characteristics while fattening up the stereo presentation, I think.
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 05, 2011, 10:28:25 AM
Hi guys

My name is Manuel and I just got here in this forum, saw this post and here is my mix. I hope you enjoy it and post some comments. 

http://soundcloud.com/manuelbernal   

Thanks


Hi Manuel, I've not reviewed many mixes so I hope this helps you.

Bass sounds really nice, you managed to get a heavy sounding bass without it being too over powering and muddy. I thought the drums had a bit too much reverb for my taste at the start but sounded better when the main riff comes in.  The vocals come through nicely and the delay works really well.  Overall I think this is a good attempt. Keep it up.

  • *
April 05, 2011, 10:37:42 AM
Here is my mix: http://soundcloud.com/studioimp/studioimp-younggriff

Is this link active? Soundcloud is giving me an error message.

Sorry not sure why this isnt working.  i've just got my mail now so this should work.

http://soundcloud.com/studioimp/studioimp-younggriff

  • ***
April 05, 2011, 10:43:13 AM
Can you reference or describe a snare sound that you think would work better and explain how you would intergrate it further with the kit?

There have been some nice ones already on this thread, but you'll have to flick back through a few of the critiques to find them, because all these mixes are beginning to become one big blur to me now! As far as blending is concerned, I'd try to do this by first switching the snare on and off while the mix is playing. When it's not there, imagine what its tone should be, then pop it back in and see if the odd narrow EQ notch might make it sit more naturally. Then I'd look at the possibilities offered by short ambience reverb, but trying to match the acoustic signature of the ambience to the overheads if you can. It can sometimes take me 10 minutes or more to find the right raw reverb preset to start work from in situations like this, so don't hurry that bit of the process.

Well I had it beefier to start with , then I went and listened to a few of their references and came away with the impression ( rightly or wrongly ) that it wasn't that prominent in some of the songs they liked, so I tried to sit it above the bass and try to make the bass driver the track along instead. I also ended up rolling some bottom off the whole mix when I heard it the next morning just before I posted it.

It's always tricky to judge the bottom octaves, and engineers do differ quite a bit in their approaches here. I've personally prefered to err on the side of more rather than less, more in line with the Cog and Death Cab mixes, but it's always going to be a moot point. The advantage of less low end, of course, is that you can usually get more loudness out of the end result.

Now this is one of my bone of contentions - I actually like to hear little things like fret squeeks and a little breath noise, I think it adds character...after all it's Rock N Roll not the Royal Philhamonic  ::) alot of my favourite recordings have little bits of noise on that could be taken out ( think Beatles/ Oasis etc )  but I think are best left in and not oversanitised :P

It might perhaps surprise you to hear that I actually agree with you, but it's not the presence of these things in the mix that bugs me, it's the balance. Tuck it into the mix a bit more and I'm all for it.

I think I know why that is now, I used Brainworx Shredspread set fairly wide to give the chorus guitars a lift and I I forgot to check the mix as a whole in mono until it was too late. I have the guitars opposite panned, so do I try inverting the phase of one of them or is there a more elegant solution ? Or is it just the plugin that needs it's mono gain turning up ? I will try it.

The plug-in is probably responsible for a lot of the problem, but if you pan the multi-mics to opposite sides, then any phase mismatch between them can also compromise the mono-compatibility. Simple polarity inversion is unlikely to help, because its a timing-related phase mismatch that's at issue, so I'd investigate small timing shifts and/or phase-rotation devices. (You can find some affordable ones here.)

I actually did some just to nudge it into shape, again not a huge fan of overdoing it - I find the overuse/abuse of Autotune etc. really puts me off alot of modern songs

I agree with you, but in my experience you can do a massive amount to correct and tighten vocal tuning without actually killing the emotion (if you're careful), and like it or not we do now live in an age where the listening public have grown accustomed to unnaturally tight tuning.

I usually end up with 10 or 12 subgroups that I do alot of automation on so on this one for instance when the chorus hits I rode up room mics, brought in a much more distorted bass track that I'd multed, rode up the kit global ambience return, the vocal FX send and the Shredspread fader and then pulled them some ( or all for the bass ) of the way back for the next verse.

I use a Presonus Faderport to do alot of the rides and then tidy them up afterwards. The automation lines in Sonar's buss view often end up looking like some crazy Undergound Tube Train Map but I remember reading somewhere once that if your faders are static your mix will be too

Is everyone listening...? ;)
« Last Edit: April 05, 2011, 10:59:20 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!

  • ***
April 05, 2011, 10:45:13 AM
Sorry not sure why this isnt working.  i've just got my mail now so this should work.
http://soundcloud.com/studioimp/studioimp-younggriff

Ah. I'm getting it now, but I still need the download option to be active to listen to it in the studio. It should be in the options somewhere.
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 05, 2011, 11:31:37 AM

  • No avatar
  • **
April 05, 2011, 11:41:55 AM
Mike -
Here's my revised mix:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24660599/blood_to_bone_MIX_040411.mp3

Thanks again for all your time & effort.

Cheers
Malcolm

Wow! Great mix!