The Mixdown

fuzzikitten

Junior Members
So last night I put the final touches on the arrangement of my first serious trance track and proceeded to mix it down. That is where I ran in to a problem: I've never mixed down a track before.

Now, I have some vague notion of what goes on in a mix down, it goes something like this: I bounce each track to audio, apply any necessary EQing and/or compression to the tracks. Then I go through and blend them together, adding any reverb/panning as is necessary to get all the elements audible. I've read that I might apply some mysterious 'mastering' elements to do something to the tracks, it's supposed to either make the track sound better or make it sound worse, depending on who you ask. Given that I don't know how to use most of these devices, I tend not to use them.

Needless to say I felt like I was fumbling quite a bit in the dark. I wound up bouncing all my leads to audio and creating a couple different groups with light compression on them (ratios of 1.6 or less). I did the same for my percussion, just to tighten it up some. I also made sure my leads stayed above my bass with a number of LPFs, and that any nasty frequency peaks were tamed with some precise EQing.

I then (hesitantly) put on an L2 over the entire mix with the threshold down at -2.1 just to keep it from peaking in case I had the chance to play the track on a big system.

But beyond that I wasn't really sure what else to do - or even if I should do anything more. I tried to make my synths fit together at the programming stage, w/out EQing/compression, so maybe that's why I wound up doing so little in the mixing stage.



Does anyone feel like sharing their mixing process, or even just a perspective on mixing? I'm living in the digital realm at the moment, but I'm curious how other people are approaching the 'mix down'.

peace!

-Alex
 

Continuum

Throb Farmer
fuzzikitten said:
But beyond that I wasn't really sure what else to do - or even if I should do anything more.

Nope, that sounds like that to me. :Smile3:

If it sounds good it probably is good. Burn what you have to a CD and try it on mate's stereos, in the car, on the walkman. If it still sounds good then it really is good.

Your mixdown process sounds a lot like mine:
. bounce down to audio tracks
. eq and compress individual tracks
. reverb - use a couple of reverbs on group tracks: one very short room ambience setting,
another slightly longer. send tracks to these groups to make them sound like they're happening in the same spaces ie, use the ambient reverb on all the percussion for example.
. group and compress some tracks (bass/kick, percussion, leads etc) if necessary
. apply L2 very gently over the whole shebang

oh yeah, the BBE maximiser works really well on groups - put the kick and bass thru one, leads thru another etc etc. Only use a teeny bit of the BBE process and hardly any low freq compensation, and everything should start sounding very sharp and defined.

any more?
 

Sturdy Pete

Sturdy Member
Colin OOOD said:
Another way of approaching it is to mix as you write, which is what I tend to do.


be careful of this approach - it was working for me for ages, but recently i've got so bogged down in the mix that i forget that good production comes AFTER writing a good tune.

I've got about 8 "tunes" which haven't got past the bass + precussion stage because i start trying to make it sound exactly right, and by the time it gets somewhere i'm happy with i've lost all clue as to where to go with the tune.

mind you, colin OOOD makes much better tracks than me, so he probably knows what he's talking about :Smile3:
 

soliptic

whirling mathematician
fuzzikitten said:
Now, I have some vague notion of what goes on in a mix down, it goes something like this: I bounce each track to audio, apply any necessary EQing and/or compression to the tracks. Then I go through and blend them together, adding any reverb/panning as is necessary to get all the elements audible.

Well, there's no need for the mixdown to involve exporting everything to audio, let alone applying any processing thereafter. As Colin says you can mix as you go along, which is also what i tend to do. Work like this and the "mixdown" stage is actually nothing more than this:

- finish tune
- close sequencer
- listen to loads of stuff in a totally different genre, clear the ears out
- go to bed
- listen to some 'reference' tunes which you know are similar in style to your tune, and mixed how your tune would ideally sound
- listen to your tune
- final tweaks with benefit of fresh ears ("ooh, thats a bit loud actually", "you know what, when i havent been listening to this all day, i can hardly make out that detail, must turn it up")
- export

voila, done

mix-as-you-go vs mix-at-the-end is an endless debate, obviously the only fair conclusions are they both have pros and cons and it all depends on each person anyway, so i wont really bother getting into it.

suffice to say i set things at the volume i want them, eq'd how i want them, panned how i want them, and reverbed how i want them, because to me those things are 100% inherent, integral parts of electronic music. i cant make a clear distinction between 'the music' and 'the sound', because there isnt always one to be made! for example, i simply couldnt work on a tune if the melody was bone-dry reverb-free, or having totally innappropriate eq that clashed with something else, or whatever. the eq response of a sound is a huge part of what makes a sound that sound, i cant attempt to crowbar a particular (non-fitting) patch into a mixdown by cracking out eq at the last minute, i need to choose/sculpt a patch which sits nicely in the track from its very nature :Smile3:

I've read that I might apply some mysterious 'mastering' elements to do something to the tracks, it's supposed to either make the track sound better or make it sound worse, depending on who you ask. Given that I don't know how to use most of these devices, I tend not to use them.

good choice :Smile3:

I then (hesitantly) put on an L2 over the entire mix with the threshold down at -2.1 just to keep it from peaking in case I had the chance to play the track on a big system.

But beyond that I wasn't really sure what else to do - or even if I should do anything more.

agree with continuum - no need to feel you need to do any more.

all i ever do at the end is a wee bit of ultramaximiser. 2db is fine you can throw that on almost anything without a problem. i usually find you can look between 2 and 4 db on most mixdowns, just keep your ears tuned to it starting to 'crunch' (especially on heavy sub bass) and dont go that far basically.

the other thing i occasionally do is add a little 'air' with eq, if the track is seeming slightly dull, but again, i prefer to get it how i want it n the first place.

now, this isnt to suggest there's nothing else you can do- multiband compression is a ridiculously powerful tool for starters - but i prefer not to go there. i think if you're an average amateur with average monitors then you just do more harm than good. by all means play around to learn but just keep in mind - on the day you'll think the 'mastered' one is a huge improvement, it wont be til a few months later you realise you actually ruined it completely.

Does anyone feel like sharing their mixing process, or even just a perspective on mixing? I'm living in the digital realm at the moment, but I'm curious how other people are approaching the 'mix down'.

my next big wish is to mix everything down to < 12 stems, and do the final mix in the analog domain. i've spoken to faaaaarrrrrr too many people who this (with audibly improved results) not to want to try it at least. unfortunately for me, i havent had my cfx-12 at my house for nearly 2 years :mad:
 

fuzzikitten

Junior Members
After reading these perspectives I think I've been doing a combination of 'mix-as-you-go' and 'mix-when-you-finish', partly due to my uncertainty with certain effects (reverb, compressioin, etc) and partly due to the fact that my cpu cannot handle all the VSTis with EQ/reverb/compression on them. I'm still learning when to bounce tracks to audio while I'm writing...

In the beginning I tried to rely heavily on 'mix-as-you-go', but quickly found myself falling into the trap that Sturdy Pete mentions, losing my creative muse to the endless engineering of some small aspect of my song. I now try to limit the amount of engineering to the kick and bass, viewing them as the sonic foundation, and once they are done resisting the urge to go back and 'tweak them just a little bit.'

I will check out the BBE on groups - especially as I've already broken the song in to key groups.

I've found I also cannot work with a totally naked sound on a track, and I usually have some sort of reverb or delay to give it 'space' or else it just sounds strange. One problem I have is that when a mix is still simple I can get away with a lot more reverb/delay than I can when the track gets dense with other elements. This is part of the reason I view the mix-down as a time to re-evaluate the amount of reverb I have on everything. Hopefully with experience I will know how much reverb is necessary initially and save myself the work of going back and balancing all the reverbs.

Thanks for the comments/perspectives, I feel a lot more comfortable with what I did in my mix-down now. :Smile3:

-Alex
 

Speakafreaka

Champagne Rouletter
A bit of good advice given to me about room reverbs is that if you can hear the reverb it is too much. It's the right amount of reverb when you turn off the reverb and it just sounds worse.

One final point, if you are bouncing to audio from the mix, and you are running a limiter over the mix turn it off, or you'll be running the sound source through the limiter again in the mixdown, which can make things sounds subtely different.

On the subject of limiters, I thought the important thing to look at was the amount of compression taking place? You can normally get away with about 3-4db compression is L2 or any other limiter for that matter. If you can hear the limiter working over the loudest overall part of the track, then you need to turn it down. Unless of course you like pumping compressor sound :Smile3:
 

fuzzikitten

Junior Members
Speakafreaka said:
A bit of good advice given to me about room reverbs is that if you can hear the reverb it is too much. It's the right amount of reverb when you turn off the reverb and it just sounds worse.

Now *theres* a rule of thumb that makes sense. Thank you! :Smile3:
 

fuzzikitten

Junior Members
Ott^ said:
Make it sound good.

... that's either cheeky, or sound advice (no pun intended).


btw, I related your quip about me being a fucking big pansy to my girlfriend. She made me this, which I shall inflict upon you as just punishment.



I thought it'd make a great cover, maybe for an album. I'm going to call it "I got called a fucking big pansy by Ott."

It'll make me a mint!
 

fuzzikitten

Junior Members
So I was able to listen to my track on a big soundsystem the other night - what an eye opener! My kicks were flabby, my bass was too low, and some of my leads I couldn't even hear.

Quite the 'ear-opener', to say the least. But I do have a better picture of how my monitors sound in comparison to a full-blown soundsystem.

Guess I'll have to keep practicing. Thanks for the minty-fresh advice!

-Alex
 
Top