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Creative Apathy
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25th January 2007
Old 25th January 2007
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Any tips on mixing Vox with 2 track Instrumentals

Most if not all of the cats that record at my spot bring in the 2 tracked beat and lay vocals on top of them. I know this is pretty common in the mixtape era, but is there any process that you guys go through when dealing with this situation? I know it's nearly impossible to get a GREAT mix out of this circumstance but I would love to hear how you guys approach this and find a way for the vocals to sit better. In rare instances (usually over industry beats) I can get the vocals to sound very nice and sit in a pocket, but that varies from beat to beat.

Just curious as to what anyone else does..
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25th January 2007
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Every once in a blue moon I'll have to do something with an 2track instrumental and the thing that makes it difficult is the buss compression that already exists on it. Here's what I do in those situations. Buss all your vocal tracks down to a stereo buss so now you have essentially two busses, one of the vox and one of the instrumental. Put a compressor on the vocal buss and set it how you would set it for compressing your 2buss, but key the compressor from the instrumental. Make sense? Then if it's not quite breathing right, but a compressor with a slow attack (ie. greater than 20ms) and medium release (ie. around 250ms or something, flavor to taste) on the instrumental and key that from the vocals but set the threshold so it's just barely kicking in. That usually gives you the push pull that you need to make it sound like normal 2buss compression.... or as close as you can get in a screwed up situation.

That said, this only comes up for goofy things like a mash-up for myspace or something non-important. If it's actually for a record for release, I would tell them to go back and track out the beat.

Hope that helps.
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26th January 2007
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Hey man...that's seems like some awesome advice man...I'm gonna try in tomorrows session to see how it works...

Most of the guys I work with are just putting out their own mixtapes etc...but if its an original beat of course I always try to encourage them to supply a tracked out version of the beat.. 2 tracks are just so messy, especially when some of the beats have the worst possible mix ever

Anyhow, thanks for the in depth reply can't wait to test it out
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28th January 2007
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My thoughts on this

I would (among other tweaks) just make sure to cutaway room for the vox frequencies in the instrumental track so it can be nice and loud and still have distinct/clear vocals and not have that "vox above music" scenario. /Toby
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28th January 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattssons View Post
I would (among other tweaks) just make sure to cutaway room for the vox frequencies in the instrumental track so it can be nice and loud and still have distinct/clear vocals and not have that "vox above music" scenario. /Toby
Not to steal the thread but...

when people refer to carving out a space for the vocals using EQ it makes me wonder about songs with a handful of different MC's. If you're actively using subractive EQ to 'carve a pocket' for, say, two different MC's that have completely different voices do you actually automate your EQ?

I've never tried it, but it just seems that that could get a little distracting throughout the course of song with say 5 different MC's...
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28th January 2007
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Hey Buddy I'm glad You are helping Those that want to
Record themselves on to a CD .
This is what I do for my clients in Riverdale G.A . after work .
I always tell my clients to bring a comercial release CD that they want their song to compete with to the session . When they arrive I Load their Track onto DP5
and the comercial release CD onto ITunes .
After tracking Their 2 Track Beat to a click track I work on getting their beat to sound as Loud , crisp , Knocking and Bangin as possible . After the clients hear the shootoff between their beat and the Comercial Release CD the clients knows they came to the right place and have the right guy working to make them RICH . Buddy after you record their Rap and put in the pocket you'll be putting your clients money in your Pocket . Have fun Man .
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28th January 2007
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Dipping background stuff

I usually just dip a bit where the vox lives, sometimes by looking a bit at a spectrum analyser or just sweeping a boosted parametric slowly until the vox peaks out, i would´nt have different cuts for different mc´s.

Cool idea thought as it could be one way to keep the songs interesting, i think i read Spike Sent talk about different e.q in different parts of a song. Movement, dynamic suprises, different fx could be other ways.

I think low and highpass filters are useful when mixing as having every sound fullrange is just wasting bandwidth, especially really subsonic stuff. /Toby
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29th January 2007
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I find that "ducking" a little bit in the 2.5k range on the inst track does the trick in most situations like that.
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29th January 2007
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try running a parallel comp bus off the two track and then hi and lo shelf on that comp bus... and comp the 2mix (I always insert a hardware 2mix comp on the master). this, with eqing (as suggested above), temp delay and verb on vocs + voc comp and eq on voc bus, can help glue it all together.
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Creative Apathy
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31st January 2007
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you guys are the dookie...the eq ducking works pretty well it makes things alot better ..still havent tried the compression idea but i want to asap

thanks for the help!
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31st January 2007
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I would avoid EQing or frequency ducking on the instrumental to make room for the vocal UNLESS there is something WRONG with the instrumental. There should already be room for the vocal in the arrangement.
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31st January 2007
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My biggest problem with the 2-track thing is when clients bring in beats they got from some producer and the track is squashed to hell....basically leaving no headroom for the vocals....It never fails, I load up the track and it's one complete block... Extremely hard to work with....
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1st February 2007
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well if it's industry instrumental it has a good enough pocket already, but SOMEtimes ducking works for me on a funky mp3 ( yall know what i mean...some of these industry instrumentals are downloaded from god knows where and obviously sound very low quality- like freakin 48)

but if its original it takes much more work of course we all know that. i hate it...i hate it i hate it i hate it. i mean sometimes the mix is so bad i just want to pee on the 2 track...but if thats the case i will try my hardest to convince the artist to acquire a tracked out version by any means necessary...malcolm x
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14th July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
Every once in a blue moon I'll have to do something with an 2track instrumental and the thing that makes it difficult is the buss compression that already exists on it. Here's what I do in those situations. Buss all your vocal tracks down to a stereo buss so now you have essentially two busses, one of the vox and one of the instrumental. Put a compressor on the vocal buss and set it how you would set it for compressing your 2buss, but key the compressor from the instrumental. Make sense? Then if it's not quite breathing right, but a compressor with a slow attack (ie. greater than 20ms) and medium release (ie. around 250ms or something, flavor to taste) on the instrumental and key that from the vocals but set the threshold so it's just barely kicking in. That usually gives you the push pull that you need to make it sound like normal 2buss compression.... or as close as you can get in a screwed up situation.

That said, this only comes up for goofy things like a mash-up for myspace or something non-important. If it's actually for a record for release, I would tell them to go back and track out the beat.

Hope that helps.
Definitely great advice Chris. I'm going to steal this idea..
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13th August 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
Every once in a blue moon I'll have to do something with an 2track instrumental and the thing that makes it difficult is the buss compression that already exists on it. Here's what I do in those situations. Buss all your vocal tracks down to a stereo buss so now you have essentially two busses, one of the vox and one of the instrumental. Put a compressor on the vocal buss and set it how you would set it for compressing your 2buss, but key the compressor from the instrumental. Make sense? Then if it's not quite breathing right, but a compressor with a slow attack (ie. greater than 20ms) and medium release (ie. around 250ms or something, flavor to taste) on the instrumental and key that from the vocals but set the threshold so it's just barely kicking in. That usually gives you the push pull that you need to make it sound like normal 2buss compression.... or as close as you can get in a screwed up situation.

That said, this only comes up for goofy things like a mash-up for myspace or something non-important. If it's actually for a record for release, I would tell them to go back and track out the beat.

Hope that helps.
I tried the opposite way around too (vocal keying the instrumental) & it actually worked even better than the way above for some things. Really glued everything. Just have to do it very slightly.
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13th August 2012
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EQ can really help and limiting
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13th August 2012
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14th August 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Marrvel View Post
Here you go...

Mixing For Mixtapes - Mixing 101

It doesn't get much better than this! Props to Ken Lewis.
I saw this. Yes big props to Ken. Def gotta check this out. Man I really wish Ken had this out years ago when I was doing lots of mixtapes at the old studio I used to work at on Melrose in L.A. All good tho cuz someone is always bringing in a 2-track instrumentals & that'll never stop.

Last edited by Filthrill; 14th August 2012 at 01:25 AM.. Reason: Grammer
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14th August 2012
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just spent the last few days doing mix tape work. One of the tracks was sampled off of youtube, very roomy piano and vocals, with a full song over it! it was basically 2 full songs on top of each other. I just had to go WITH the crazy!

the 2track inst is a challenge for sure. all you can do is work it and crank on it just get the record rockin! Chances are you will come up with something that is better then your client could've imagined.

like Mr. Carter said, if your mixing for a label or for an album/single (an actual release) insist on the multitrack at all costs! If the client is real, you won't even have to ask for this, it will just show up spread out.

But i usually go with some kind of separate vocal bus compression/eq and try to glue it all together with something like an L2.
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14th August 2012
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Quote:
is there any process that you guys go through when dealing with this situation? I know it's nearly impossible to get a GREAT mix out of this circumstance but I would love to hear how you guys approach this and find a way for the vocals to sit better.
I crtitically listen to the music tracks and the vocal tracks, exactly how they came to me. Then i decide what needs to be done in order for it to sound its very best. Soemtimes that's Eqi'ng and compressing the music tracks and Eq'ing and compressing the vocal and sometimes its Eq ing the music tracks and addign reverb and Eq to the vocal tracks. Soemtimes its adding a series of delays to the vocal track and pitch shifting it up and down and combining it with the original vocal track while only compressing the music track. Soemtimes I do nothing to the music track (very rare) and add chorus, reverb, eq and comrpession to the vocal track. It all just depends.

I never did the same thing to any 2 songs. Each of these will bring different varuiables to table.
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14th August 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ Mastering View Post
I crtitically listen to the music tracks and the vocal tracks, exactly how they came to me. Then i decide what needs to be done in order for it to sound its very best. Soemtimes that's Eqi'ng and compressing the music tracks and Eq'ing and compressing the vocal and sometimes its Eq ing the music tracks and addign reverb and Eq to the vocal tracks. Soemtimes its adding a series of delays to the vocal track and pitch shifting it up and down and combining it with the original vocal track while only compressing the music track. Soemtimes I do nothing to the music track (very rare) and add chorus, reverb, eq and comrpession to the vocal track. It all just depends.

I never did the same thing to any 2 songs. Each of these will bring different varuiables to table.

+1 obviously these are only tips along with almost every suggestion to every thread on this site. Bottom line it all depends, at the end of the day you have to use ur ears.
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14th August 2012
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It's really funny how marrying vocals to a lil 2-track beat can be so difficult ain't it? To do it & make it sound good is a talent.
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15th August 2012
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15th August 2012
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Exactly what I'm dealing with atm, except I'm actually working with artist towards a release and have to engineer, mix, arrange, and master these trax .
Actually, they're not even trax, just lengthy loops with vox on top.
Some great tips mentioned above which I'll have to give it a go. I'm a big fan of making 3-4 copies of the original beat/trak and eq/compress different then bring it back together in a buss. Same with vox, mix/eq/comp then bring back together in a buss then start using comp/limiter and key/sidechain accordingly.
Id say pay attention to relation between music and vox and sometimes could be as easy as keeping trak in the middle while panning vox left/right and open it up in the stereo field or the other way around- it makes room for the two (vox&music) to breathe.
But yeah, it's always the same scenario, great vox terrible music....
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16th August 2012
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Originally Posted by rekloos View Post
Exactly what I'm dealing with atm, except I'm actually working with artist towards a release and have to engineer, mix, arrange, and master these trax .
Actually, they're not even trax, just lengthy loops with vox on top.
Some great tips mentioned above which I'll have to give it a go. I'm a big fan of making 3-4 copies of the original beat/trak and eq/compress different then bring it back together in a buss. Same with vox, mix/eq/comp then bring back together in a buss then start using comp/limiter and key/sidechain accordingly.
Id say pay attention to relation between music and vox and sometimes could be as easy as keeping trak in the middle while panning vox left/right and open it up in the stereo field or the other way around- it makes room for the two (vox&music) to breathe.
But yeah, it's always the same scenario, great vox terrible music....
But keep in mind if any of these 2-tracks/instrumentals/beats your client is using is from a well-known (mainly current) song, it has already been meticulously mixed already. That means if u go messing w/ it by re-EQing the track or compressing it or whatever, anyone who's familiar w/ it might be like..."why'd he do that?" It loses something, the vibe of the track. This happened to me on few occasions cuz it's impossible for me to know where every instrumental came from & I assumed the music belonged to the artist. Only after mixing it for awhile did I somehow find out that it's a popular (or not so popular) song on the radio. Sorry but I'm not going to re-EQ a 50 Cent beat. Pointless. Just my opinion tho. Also be careful wut u put on your stereo bus in these situations IF you're using someone else's beat. I think it usually changes it in a not-so-good way. I've done some really great mixtapes for artists & hate to break the news but I rarely used sidechaining & all that & they were still bangin'.

Last edited by Filthrill; 16th August 2012 at 06:03 AM.. Reason: Grammer
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18th August 2012
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Nobody has any more to say? I guess Ken's mixtape tutorial answers everything!
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18th August 2012
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tape distortion like waves mpx is great to smoothen out your vox as well
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18th August 2012
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Quote:
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tape distortion like waves mpx is great to smoothen out your vox as well
Good point. I really should upgrade my Waves to have this or just buy this plug. My neighbor in studio next door uses it heavy & I like how it sounds. I used Analog Channel AC2 on vocals not too long ago for some down South Hip Hop cuz their vocal tracks came to me kinda thin & some needed some serious love. It did smooth em out tho but I'm kinda tired of Analog Channel. The excitement came & went. Not sayin thin vocals are limited to the "South" either. Heehee.
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20th August 2012
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