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Can software do the Job
Old 9th June 2006
  #1
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fastlane's Avatar
 

Can software do the Job

I started running my studio professionally 8 months ago and unfortunatly I can't afford to buy mastering hardward just yet so I have been making do with software.

3 days ago I started recording 2 track with a customer and I mixed and mastered them today, he is over the moon about them. He rang this evening sharing his delight which is great. I had a listen back to them just now and yes, they sound brilliant to me in the studio although I haven't listened to them on any other systems so I can't give a well rounded opinion.

Please have a listen to the sample below, it's only a minute or so long cut from the middle of the track with a fade in and out but it will give ye a good idea of the overall sound. I would really like to know whether a mastering studio would do a better job, and if so then how much of a better job. So, be brutal, give it to me straight!

I mastered in Cubase SX mastering suite using Izotope Ozone, Blue Tubes EQ, Vintage warmer and L2 in that order. No presets, just went for it as usual.

Recorded in Cubase SX with the following:

2.3Gig AMD64 DualCore PC with 2 Gig Ram
RME Multiface
Focusrite ISA 430 producers pack
Raindirk RM4 Class A pre's (very Transparent Pre's by the way)
Se Gemini and the ISA (Vocals)
Podxt stereo out directly into the RM4's (Guitars)
Korg Triton (Left to ISA, Right to a RM4)
Ibanez bass DI to the ISA with a touch of EQ and Fast Comp
Reason 3 Drumkits (each drum mixed to a mono track and effected in cubase)
Monitored with M-Audio BX8's
also used
PRS Custom 22
Hughes and Ketter amp mic-ed with one SM57 and one Beta57A
Steinberg Houston,
Waves C1
Cubase delay and reverb.
I think that's it.

Let me know what ye think. Should I be doing better??
Old 9th June 2006
  #2
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I took a listen to your clip and this is very listenable! Your main problem is the sound sources, but I think it's impressive what kind of quality you've achieved with what you've recorded... Professional quality?! I'm sorry, but no. You need real high quality instruments tracked the right way to get there, but this is very well mixed and mastered and as I already said, very listenable! Very good job especially for your time in the business!

Some might prefer a little more centered vocals and a little louder bass line + drums and less keyboards, but this is a matter of taste as well. The stereo image is a bit unrealistic. Work on the instrument separation a bit more. You have limited this song quite much and it's a little difficult to hear what different instruments are playing. A professional mastering engineer would approach the mix differently, the result would be better instrument separation overall since the mastering engineer would notice that the sound field is not very efficiently consumed. I think that's what you mainly need to focus on in terms of mastering. But the song sounded great on my consumer speaker system, so you have really done a great job overall...

So to sum it up, focus on the following:

- Record better sound sources, especially drums and guitars
- Mix and master a more realistic stereo image
- Work on audio editing and automation a little more, to clean it up a little and add drama
- Keep the instrument separation all the way to the end
Old 9th June 2006
  #3
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Darius van H's Avatar
 

Verified Member
The vocals have an annoying hi frequency edge, while at the same time being a bit dull!......that's something to be fixed at the mix/tracking stage, not really a mastering issue.

Actually it's a pretty good song........the main thing the mix is missing is some excitement and movement.
Old 9th June 2006
  #4
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fastlane's Avatar
 

Rainbowstorm, thanks very much for your kinda words.

Quote:
Professional quality?! I'm sorry, but no. You need real high quality instruments tracked the right way to get there
I think you nailed it with this comment, you're dead right.

In relation to the verse vocals being seperated, it may not work but the idea was to leave them spaced to create a "dream like" sound, then in the chorus a thrid vocal comes in bang in the middle and the Left, Right vocals drop back to reinforce the centre vocals.

Also, the Drums are just a drum machine so I know they sound a bit ridgit. Also the tom's are very 80's but thats what he wanted so......

Quote:
work on the instrument seperation a bit more
Is it I need to give every instrument it's own space in the mix??
This is something I am still working at but can never quite get it. Is there any trick to it or is it just trial, error and experience?? If anyone has any advise it would be much appricated
All the best

Darius Van H.
Thanks for your words, I think I know what you mean but about annoying high Freq's, software reverb is causing that, exagerating the sibilance. I must revist that. I know it's a bad idead to mix and master in the same day and so close to recordeding the project but I didn't have a choice. Listened with freash ears this morning and I can hear 2 or 3 overlooked things.
Thanks aagain
Old 9th June 2006
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fastlane
Is it I need to give every instrument it's own space in the mix??
This is something I am still working at but can never quite get it. Is there any trick to it or is it just trial, error and experience?? If anyone has any advise it would be much appricated
All the best
I think most engineers learn this by trial and failure. Instrument separation means letting the listener get attached to the mix. This can be used in combination with automation for adding attention points on the song to make the listener want to listen to it from the beginning to the end. I have attached a mix to this post to illustrate what I mean. When you listen to it, notice how you automatically start focusing on the bass line. It's Marcus Miller doing some nice bass guitar playing in this mix. The great thing about it is that it's easy to hear what he is playing, you don't need to spend any extra energy/focus in order to perceive what's beautiful in this mix, it automatically comes to the listener. And if you want to hear what happens in the rest of the rhtyhm element it's easy too. You have a few things in the left speaker and a few things in the right speaker. It sounds like two percussionists standing on one side each. That's what instrument separation is all about.

Pay attention to how I described the rhythm element, two percussionists, not one. Good instrument separation comes from capturing the band such that you can see the band playing in front of you. The stereo image is realistic. What I meant with trying to improve the instrument separation in your mix was to make it realistic sounding first of all. As you can hear the snare drum lies on top of the whole band. I see a big snare on top of the whole band and on the sides I see two groups of people standing very close to each other with one singer in each, singing the same thing. The bass guitarist is somewhere, but I can't really figure out where. The other guitarist is somewhere in the middle, quite far away. In a way it sounds powerful the way it sounds right now, the problem is that it's difficult to get really attached to the producer's ideas, something that is VERY important in professional mixes, it's more important than a "big sound".

How can you solve this? First of all you need to analyze what kind of material you've got in your hands. In this case you got a mix based on a lot of keyboard/software samples. Typically that means you are dealing with a quite bad signal when you start mixing. So you need to "clean it up". You can discuss this with the producer. Typically you use the mute button, you make a decision of how many elements you will leave in the mix playing at the same time and their type. In this case I think 3 light elements is the way to go: vocals, pad (strings,synth,guitar but only one of these simoultaneously), rhythm (bass and drums + added rhythm tracks). When you have these elements at hands it is pretty simple. You use the pan knobs for distributing the signal in the sound field, so that as little frequency masking as possible takes place. In the center you put the vocals, because the singer stands in the middle of the band. Then you add drums. The drummer has his drum kit placed slightly to the left of the singer. He has a huge drumkit so the high hat, one tom and some cymbals are on the right side of the singer. You can distribute it like this: L65 - R35. The bass guitarist is standing on the right side of the singer to the right of the drummer. His bass guitar sound fills up quite a lot of the stage: L25 - R75. There's also another guitarist. He stands quite far on the left side of the singer: L90 - L30. So now you've described where these people stand. Now you need to specify the depth so that the listener's brain can get attached to the different elements by locating it on the Z-axis. The singer stands in the front and kind of leans forward: boost a little on the high frequencies. The drummer is certainly in the back behind the vocalist, boost a little on the low frequencies. The bass guitarist stands somewhere in the middle, boost a little on the mid frequencies. The other guitarist stands besides the singer far at the front, boost a little high frequencies. Now you have specified in more detail where the different musicians are. But in order to be able to know precisely where they are you need to set the room they are in. Depending on what kind of room the instruments where tracked in you need to approach this in different ways. Typically the room is not big enough so you need to simulate the room. The singer stands in the middle where the distance to the ceiling is the biggest and the distance to the walls is the biggest. Add a room reverb and set it as wet as half the sound stage you need. The drums are farther away close to a wall, set the reverb more wet than the vocals and add a medium short delay. The bass is in the middle to the left of the singer, set the reverb more wet than the vocals but less wet than the drums and add a short delay on the L channel. The guitarist is at the front close to a wall, set a short delay on the right channel and a little reverb. Now you have described the band. The next thing is the sound composition. The audience wants to hear the singer clearly, maximize the volume. The audience wants to hear the drummer pretty good as well, set it almost as loud as the singer. The audience wants to hear guitar licks and such clearly, use automation on some parts and set the overall volume lower. The audience wants to hear the bass line clearly, set it as loud as the drummer.

So this is basically how you create instrument separation and it happens in the mixing process. The mastering engineer then processes the mix such that all of this image is preserved. For this reason he uses an M/S approach. The sum of all this is a clear and big mix that the listener gets attached to. Pay attention to WHEN you apply instrument separation. That takes place AFTER optimizing each instrument that was tracked. You always make each instrument sound the best in SOLO before you start locating the instruments in the sound field. By doing it the other way around you will end up with an unrealistic stereo image. It's also important to check for mono compatibility, so fine tune the track positioning in mono and strive to pan such that the less important instruments (the electric guitar in this case) starts sounding too loud. Compensate with EQ cutting on these tracks (if the instrument is at front, cut lows, if the instrument is in the middle cut highs and lows and if the instrument is at rear, cut highs, doing it the other way around will damage the stereo image). To further make the instrument separation even better, experiment a little.

Good luck with your mixing!
Attached Files

Marcus Miller - Heal Our Land.mp3 (2.06 MB, 165 views)

Old 10th June 2006
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
Tubefreak's Avatar
 

Wow RainbowStorm, that's an excellent short tutorial.

As for the mix/song, I would like to add two things which I noticed. There's an extremely long string-note that doesn't change for almost a whole minute in the beginning. Eventhough there's some progression going on. The note works fine with the progression, but makes the mix a bit flat, imo.

The second thing is the stepfilter. It's always there. I think you can easily skip it somewhere to get the track more alive.

Maarten
Old 10th June 2006
  #7
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fastlane's Avatar
 

Rainbowstorm, I can't begin to tell you how helpful that was. The way you described it made it seem like common sence. I have been reading loads of books, mags and web articals but they never really explained the lodgic behind the approch to mixing. Until now I was just trying to get a balance of instruments when mixing, trying to eq so no instrument was invading another instruments space but I never looked at it in terms of the Z axis, and certainly didn't know how to achieve it. I can't wait to dive into my next project and apply those guideline!!

I can't thank you enough, seriously!
Your a legend!!!!!!
Old 11th June 2006
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fastlane
Rainbowstorm, I can't begin to tell you how helpful that was. The way you described it made it seem like common sence. I have been reading loads of books, mags and web articals but they never really explained the lodgic behind the approch to mixing. Until now I was just trying to get a balance of instruments when mixing, trying to eq so no instrument was invading another instruments space but I never looked at it in terms of the Z axis, and certainly didn't know how to achieve it. I can't wait to dive into my next project and apply those guideline!!

I can't thank you enough, seriously!
Your a legend!!!!!!
Great, my aim was to help as much as possible, so I'm glad that you feel you've got some new perspectives!

The most important thing about this is to have the mind setup for a realistic stereo image. Once you get used to taking care of that you'll realise how fundamental this really is. Different mixes will require different setups and soon you'll learn what works and what doesn't. An important aspect of all this is the quality of the signal coming in. If the signal is really good you will find it easy to get the instrument separation you need. So great amplification in the tracking process will help a lot. But when this is not the case you need to target it differently. It's very easy to mess up a mix for instance due to low tracking quality, common "precise" mixing procedures will become negative compensations resulting in a lot of signal loss. Overall, having a set of great analyzing techniques for each process is very useful in recording. The more you understand the material the better it will sound in the end. You analyze and then you use your techniques creatively.
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