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All the ways to MIX a song - Ultimate workflow thread
Old 5th March 2019
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
All the ways to MIX a song - Ultimate workflow thread

So i'm trying to collect all the different mixing methodologies. I got those from watching countless tutorials. This clearly shows that there isn't a one-size-fit-all workflow. Everyone uses different approaches. If you work differently pls share with us and let's start a discussion!

1) Kick -> snare -> drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (build it like a house);

2) Vocals -> bass -> drums -> instruments -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx;

3) Bass -> drums -> vocals -> instruments -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

4) mixbuss -> Drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

5) rough balance and panning -> mixbuss -> eq on single tracks -> compression on single tracks -> reverbs & delays -> automation & fx (top down mixing);
Old 5th March 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You're searching for short cuts where they don't exist. You see a logical mind at work and think good mixes come from formulas.
What you're failing to recognize is talent behind the logical mind.

Audio mixing is an art form which utilizes technology as tools of the trade. Instead of learning to use these tools like any skilled craftsman does
you think you can use a template instead of sizing up the raw materials you have to work with and building something from scratch.

Don't think it hasn't been tried. Any audio engineer worth his salt has been trapped into thinking there are hidden patterns and methods of mixing. They all fail however and should only be viewed from a superficial vantage point. What's really going on is you see people get into habits of doing things in a specific order then conclude its the best way to do it based on the end results. The truth is however, there are endless numbers of ways to get those same results.

Example. Most of my solo recordings involve writing music as well. Instead of writing music on paper I simply write my ideas directly to a recording. I rarely if ever know what the final recording will be prior to recording, I instead rely on my imagination and feelings when recording. The last thing in the world I want to use is the left brain involving math or formulas. Its bad for making music. I instead want to maximize the primitive parts involving Music, Rhythm and Lyrics when tracking. I have enough to worry about getting great musical parts played.

I do of course choose the electronic tones and rhythm patterns I may track with based on the musical composition and grooves which I experience in real time. The music may also have some higher perception and feelings involved but again, they are not built upon a fixed formula. They are a journey based in time where things are triggered to gain a response from other listeners. Sometimes it even involves making them think everything was planned out in a formula.

Once the first tracks are completed, I may mix a bit before adding additional tracks. After those tracks are recorded I may mix a bit more before adding more and so on. In other situations, I may add tracks with no mixing at all beyond setting the levels. The end results may or may not be different, there's simply no way of knowing how much influence those tweaks have any bearing on the notes you may play. All I can say is sometimes hearing the notes in the backing tracks clearly is better, and at other times, not hearing the notes in the backing tracks clearly works better. It depends on fleeting train of thoughts you may have at any given moment.

What you may choose to work on first after all the tracks are recorded is optional. I can say, when I record an acoustic drum set, I'll typically get those mixed first for a couple of reasons. The drums pretty much cover the entire frequency range and its the gaps you leave between the drums and cymbals where your other instruments typically fit. If you set your other instruments first then try to fit the drums its much more difficult. Drums are typically recorded with multiple mics compared to other instruments which may only use one. Optimizing the drums to sound their best is more difficult and less flexible then other instruments so getting them to sound unified as their own independent mix first, then fitting the more flexible instruments in to fit is far simpler.

This is especially true if you begin to mix the drums before tracking additional instruments. You'll much more likely dial up the ideal tones to drums that are pretty much ideal vs having completely raw tracks.

If you record with Drum machines or sampled tracks, then your mixing order is pretty much optional because the drums will already have their optimal tones and placements.

As far as the order of effects placement, there are obviously certain plugins that work in certain sequences better then others.

Its doesn't make allot of sense to work from the end of that chain back to the raw sound working against the signal flow. Every time you move back a step, it makes your previous adjustments obsolete. Most adopt the approach of tweaking the effects in order of the signal flow not against it. The second adjustment in line doesn't affect the first, the third doesn't affects the first and second and so on.

If you see these things a formulaic, then you are misguided. They simply involve common sense and working smart the first time so you don't have to endlessly waste time redoing your work over and over because you made poor workflow decisions. Its also essential you have the experience to properly evaluate the work that needs to be done to eliminate fruitless and redundant steps which will only need to be reversed as you progress.
Old 5th March 2019 | Show parent
  #3
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc ➡️
You're searching for short cuts where they don't exist. You see a logical mind at work and think good mixes come from formulas.
What you're failing to recognize is talent behind the logical mind.

Audio mixing is an art form which utilizes technology as tools of the trade. Instead of learning to use these tools like any skilled craftsman does
you think you can use a template instead of sizing up the raw materials you have to work with and building something from scratch.

Don't think it hasn't been tried. Any audio engineer worth his salt has been trapped into thinking there are hidden patterns and methods of mixing. They all fail however and should only be viewed from a superficial vantage point. What's really going on is you see people get into habits of doing things in a specific order then conclude its the best way to do it based on the end results. The truth is however, there are endless numbers of ways to get those same results.

Example. Most of my solo recordings involve writing music as well. Instead of writing music on paper I simply write my ideas directly to a recording. I rarely if ever know what the final recording will be prior to recording, I instead rely on my imagination and feelings when recording. The last thing in the world I want to use is the left brain involving math or formulas. Its bad for making music. I instead want to maximize the primitive parts involving Music, Rhythm and Lyrics when tracking. I have enough to worry about getting great musical parts played.

I do of course choose the electronic tones and rhythm patterns I may track with based on the musical composition and grooves which I experience in real time. The music may also have some higher perception and feelings involved but again, they are not built upon a fixed formula. They are a journey based in time where things are triggered to gain a response from other listeners. Sometimes it even involves making them think everything was planned out in a formula.

Once the first tracks are completed, I may mix a bit before adding additional tracks. After those tracks are recorded I may mix a bit more before adding more and so on. In other situations, I may add tracks with no mixing at all beyond setting the levels. The end results may or may not be different, there's simply no way of knowing how much influence those tweaks have any bearing on the notes you may play. All I can say is sometimes hearing the notes in the backing tracks clearly is better, and at other times, not hearing the notes in the backing tracks clearly works better. It depends on fleeting train of thoughts you may have at any given moment.

What you may choose to work on first after all the tracks are recorded is optional. I can say, when I record an acoustic drum set, I'll typically get those mixed first for a couple of reasons. The drums pretty much cover the entire frequency range and its the gaps you leave between the drums and cymbals where your other instruments typically fit. If you set your other instruments first then try to fit the drums its much more difficult. Drums are typically recorded with multiple mics compared to other instruments which may only use one. Optimizing the drums to sound their best is more difficult and less flexible then other instruments so getting them to sound unified as their own independent mix first, then fitting the more flexible instruments in to fit is far simpler.

This is especially true if you begin to mix the drums before tracking additional instruments. You'll much more likely dial up the ideal tones to drums that are pretty much ideal vs having completely raw tracks.

If you record with Drum machines or sampled tracks, then your mixing order is pretty much optional because the drums will already have their optimal tones and placements.

As far as the order of effects placement, there are obviously certain plugins that work in certain sequences better then others.

Its doesn't make allot of sense to work from the end of that chain back to the raw sound working against the signal flow. Every time you move back a step, it makes your previous adjustments obsolete. Most adopt the approach of tweaking the effects in order of the signal flow not against it. The second adjustment in line doesn't affect the first, the third doesn't affects the first and second and so on.

If you see these things a formulaic, then you are misguided. They simply involve common sense and working smart the first time so you don't have to endlessly waste time redoing your work over and over because you made poor workflow decisions. Its also essential you have the experience to properly evaluate the work that needs to be done to eliminate fruitless and redundant steps which will only need to be reversed as you progress.
Hey man, thank for the eleborate answer! And i'm 100% with you. That said, i still see many pro mixers work in a rather formulaic way, an established order of processing. They mix two radically different songs with the same approach and workflow. The use of templates encourages this "fixed" way of mixing i think. What do you think?
Old 5th March 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Sigma's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Kick, Bass , snare, toms , overs, hat..... pads... gtrs ....lead vox ..bkg vox..any solo's

first reductive eq..then compression ..then eq ..then room and verbs and efx
roughing it in and tweaking with every instrument added..when vocals go in i start mastering in my 2 buss
Old 5th March 2019
  #5
Gear Guru
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarfall ➡️
So i'm trying to collect all the different mixing methodologies. I got those from watching countless tutorials. This clearly shows that there isn't a one-size-fit-all workflow. Everyone uses different approaches. If you work differently pls share with us and let's start a discussion!
The thing is that all you've done is reduced it to different steps in different orders. That way all it is is a math problem: How many different orders can you come up with? But that doesn't really mean much. It's more valuable to understand why any single engineer does things a certain way and how you can learn from that.
Old 5th March 2019
  #6
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by solarfall ➡️
So i'm trying to collect all the different mixing methodologies. I got those from watching countless tutorials. This clearly shows that there isn't a one-size-fit-all workflow. Everyone uses different approaches. If you work differently pls share with us and let's start a discussion!

1) Kick -> snare -> drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (build it like a house);

2) Vocals -> bass -> drums -> instruments -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx;

3) Bass -> drums -> vocals -> instruments -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

4) mixbuss -> Drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

5) rough balance and panning -> mixbuss -> eq on single tracks -> compression on single tracks -> reverbs & delays -> automation & fx (top down mixing);

stem 1 >>>> adjust }

stem 2 >>>> adjust }

. adjust } ----- >>> tweak >>>> done
. adjust
. adjust }

stem 8 >>>> adjust }
Old 5th March 2019
  #7
Gear Guru
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
1) Kick -> snare -> drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (build it like a house);

2) Vocals -> bass -> drums -> instruments -> reverbs & delays -> mixbuss -> automation & fx;

3) Bass -> drums -> vocals -> instruments -> mixbuss -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

4) mixbuss -> Drums -> bass -> instruments -> vocals -> automation & fx (processing and effects are applied as the mix progresses);

5) rough balance and panning -> mixbuss -> eq on single tracks -> compression on single tracks -> reverbs & delays -> automation & fx (top down mixing);
you left out my workflow - which I call 'whack-a-mole':

open session > attack whatever first catches my attention > attack the next issue in order of how much it bothers me > repeat until I am exhausted

I would say > repeat until satisfied, but I am never satisfied. That's seriously about how systematic I get. That's one reason why I prefer unattended mixes. If I am in the middle of working on some EQ thing in the snare drum, I really would prefer to not have the client remind me that this word in the vocal track needs to come up a bit.

I try to mix so that if I was to keel over from a heart attack in the middle, the mix would be as presentable as the unfinished mix is capable of being. Do the important stuff first. "Important" being a 100% subjective and personal decision. It's a cliché - but it depends on the song. Clichés take on that status because they get repeated so often they are perceived as being "overused" . But the reason they get repeated so often is because they are true.

The closest thing I have to any consistent "order" is that I do tend to save most of my automation for last. A habit left over from manual analog days when 'automation' meant: stuff I have to remember and do myself during the final pass. So I want the mix to hang together on its own as much as possible. I also do believe that makes for a better mix.

Also not for nothing, automation is a PITA to redo, and if you seriously modify a track's basic sounds, you almost certainly will need to trim the automation, maybe quite a bit in significant detail. The new sound might need to come up - but only in the choruses, etc.
Old 6th March 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 
64gtoboy's Avatar
I generally go the same as Sigma with the addition of popping Lead vox in and out while mixing everything else and also joeq's attack the obvious stuff first
Old 6th March 2019
  #9
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
What Sigma said... but mix will be better if............................
you can get him to mix with you.... ;lol;
Old 7th March 2019
  #10
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I always use kick, snare, toms, overheads, room, bass, guitars, auxiliary instruments, vocals, reverbs/ delays/ etc... from left to right. I started out using actual hardware for years before going ITB and this is the flow that I found works for me
Old 1 week ago | Show parent
  #11
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq ➡️
you left out my workflow - which I call 'whack-a-mole':

open session > attack whatever first catches my attention > attack the next issue in order of how much it bothers me > repeat until I am exhausted
I literally laughed out loud when I read this. And I am using literally in the literal sense.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
Gear Head
 
illegal4Hunna's Avatar
I'm normally Kick > Low End > Snare/Clap > Instruments > Other Drums > SFX > Vocals > Mixbuss.

Normally working with hip hop and contemporary music here.

Sometimes when I've recorded the track I start with the Vocals since I've still got the vibe in me, then mute them and do the above.
Old 6 days ago
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
Zed999's Avatar
 
I start with the 2 or 3 things that drive the song then go around in circles trying to fit anything else in without confusing it. Then turn the bass down.
Old 6 days ago
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Sigma's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
one thing i was taught early was that the bass gtr and drums should be around -3dB on the stereo buss as a general guideline [when starting out] on attaining a mix with a 0dB out..at sigma we did R&B and we didn't hit our 2 buss like rock or even some other R&B centric places.. sometimes with outside mastering i got screwed because they didn't bump my gain to match other songs on an album ..which would have been simple for the mastering engineer..we had rules at sigma on just about everything as my pop had worked at Philco which was an electronics developer and manufacturer

ALSO i would spent an hr or more getting the kick and bass to voice correctly together on a 4 inch mono table radio and the urie 813 mains..after they were carved as best as possible layering on that foundation eq wise was pretty straightforward ..the rest was placement , reverb, efx and rides

lol today ya'll are stuck at the digital 0 FS wall..opps me too
Old 6 days ago | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
s wave's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma ➡️
one thing i was taught early was that the bass gtr and drums should be around -3dB on the stereo buss as a general guideline [when starting out] on attaining a mix with a 0dB out..at sigma we did R&B and we didn't hit our 2 buss like rock or even some other R&B centric places.. sometimes with outside mastering i got screwed because they didn't bump my gain to match other songs on an album ..which would have been simple for the mastering engineer..we had rules at sigma on just about everything as my pop had worked at Philco which was an electronics developer and manufacturer

ALSO i would spent an hr or more getting the kick and bass to voice correctly together on a 4 inch mono table radio and the urie 813 mains..after they were carved as best as possible layering on that foundation eq wise was pretty straightforward ..the rest was placement , reverb, efx and rides

lol today ya'll are stuck at the digital 0 FS wall..opps me too
"i would spent an hr or more getting the kick and bass to voice correctly together on a 4 inch mono table radio and the urie 813 mains" Thx for cutting to the KEY again... I agree THIS is where you get your arms around a song - YOU KEEP THE BAR RAISED here and things are downhill from there... so you can actually be creative - and almost have everything pre-gelled - and mix ready for whatever purpose. Thx again Sigma!!
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