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Arrangement and Masking Mixing Question.
Old 4th September 2019
  #1
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Arrangement and Masking Mixing Question.

Is the art to mixing and having that amazing vocal sound really just having a pro and perfect arrangement or basically masking and/or side-chain and duck instruments against each other to create space?

like if synth clashes with----> vocal = I can make space by either:

1) sidechaining and ducking

2) degrade the sample rate of synth?

3) pitch up the the synth or down?

4) add reverb to it ? but what if i add reverb to the vocal and the synth and now their reverb are clashing?

and if any other frequencies or instruments clash evaluate and go through all the possibilities of what i can do to fix it?


see where i am going with this?

is...

synth clashing with vocal?

yes? evaluate all options and fix.--- is another problem created? yes? evaluate all options and techniques and fix.

is vocal clashing with snare?

evaluate all options and fix.--- is another problem created? yes? evaluate all options and techniques and fix.

is subs clashing with vocal reverb? or low male voice?

evaluate all options and fix.--- is another problem created? yes? evaluate all options and techniques and fix.

kick and sub?

evaluate all options and fix.--- is another problem created? yes? evaluate all options and techniques and fix.


I didn't go to school for this but i am very hardworking and eager to learn. YouTube education is all vocal chain this and vocal chain that which I know is wrong.... cause every song different.

basically if two instruments are clashing what are all the possible things I can do to fix them? if adding reverb to one of them or both of them is one of the options what are all the options I can do to make sure their reverbs are not colliding now?

seems like what really separates pros from ams, is not only their knowledge and credibility but they just know more ways to fix clashing instruments and can evaluate and solve it alot faster than most & and their is more than one way to solve a problem so it makes it a art.
Old 4th September 2019
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
seems like what really separates pros from ams, is not only their knowledge and credibility but they just know more ways to fix clashing instruments and can evaluate and solve it alot faster than most & and their is more than one way to solve a problem so it makes it a art.
Well, yes, I think that's part of it. The other part of it really is the creative/artistic side.

I think one way you can think of it is that through experience we learn what usually works and what doesn't. And we might hear a song and talk to the artist and understand what genre it's supposed to be and then intuitively know what path to go down.

I think one great thing with the path I took was that it was super basic in college, and I pretty much just learned the basics by mixing a plain old pop song. So drums, bass, guitars, vocals, back vocals and a keyboard. Something like that. Nothing fancy. And by doing that with my teacher coaching I understood the fundamentals of mixing (I already was a musician and composer/arranger so that part was covered).

After a while then you might develop your own procedure for how construct the mix. You might be looking at a group that's really rhythmically driven and so you start with drums and bass, trying to get that 'cookin'. Make sure the kick and bass won't 'cancel' each other out and instead drive the right parts of the mix... with the rest of the kit. And then you can add the rhythm guitars. And then because you've decided that this is what drives this mix you'll then fit the vocals. But if you instead have a great voice and more of a singer-songwriter style perhaps you might want to start with getting a stunning vocal sound instead, and then other stuff will fit around that.

So you build up your roadmaps over time and things get easier to navigate.

I guess the gist of the question is maybe answered above... but I mean... it's a really, really big question...
Old 4th September 2019
  #3
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Sybille's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
Is the art to mixing and having that amazing vocal sound really just having a pro and perfect arrangement or basically masking and/or side-chain and duck instruments against each other to create space?

seems like what really separates pros from ams, is not only their knowledge and credibility but they just know more ways to fix clashing instruments and can evaluate and solve it alot faster than most & and their is more than one way to solve a problem so it makes it a art.
Mixing is far more complex than what you're describing. A good mixing engineer will not even remove clashing frequencies if he thinks it's actually not an issue in the specific mix he's working on or if he thinks it adds a subjective texture that's giving some needed density for example.

What you're asking is impossible to answer, mixing is a million things. Half of it is experience and taste, and the other half is what you said, knowing all the possible ways of fixing and enhancing stuff.


The best engineers just have their own artistic print on the mix, they have their own way, that's what separate them from amateurs. I don't think it's solely related to the numbers of purely technical strategies they know, it's important but that's far from being all of it IMO.
Old 4th September 2019
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Well, yes, I think that's part of it. The other part of it really is the creative/artistic side.

I think one way you can think of it is that through experience we learn what usually works and what doesn't. And we might hear a song and talk to the artist and understand what genre it's supposed to be and then intuitively know what path to go down.

I think one great thing with the path I took was that it was super basic in college, and I pretty much just learned the basics by mixing a plain old pop song. So drums, bass, guitars, vocals, back vocals and a keyboard. Something like that. Nothing fancy. And by doing that with my teacher coaching I understood the fundamentals of mixing (I already was a musician and composer/arranger so that part was covered).

After a while then you might develop your own procedure for how construct the mix. You might be looking at a group that's really rhythmically driven and so you start with drums and bass, trying to get that 'cookin'. Make sure the kick and bass won't 'cancel' each other out and instead drive the right parts of the mix... with the rest of the kit. And then you can add the rhythm guitars. And then because you've decided that this is what drives this mix you'll then fit the vocals. But if you instead have a great voice and more of a singer-songwriter style perhaps you might want to start with getting a stunning vocal sound instead, and then other stuff will fit around that.

So you build up your roadmaps over time and things get easier to navigate.

I guess the gist of the question is maybe answered above... but I mean... it's a really, really big question...
+1

Nicely said.

1/ Acquire the right knowledge.
2/ Be consistent in time.
3/ With experience now adapt your way of working to your personal preference.
Old 4th September 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Well, yes, I think that's part of it. The other part of it really is the creative/artistic side.

I think one way you can think of it is that through experience we learn what usually works and what doesn't. And we might hear a song and talk to the artist and understand what genre it's supposed to be and then intuitively know what path to go down.

I think one great thing with the path I took was that it was super basic in college, and I pretty much just learned the basics by mixing a plain old pop song. So drums, bass, guitars, vocals, back vocals and a keyboard. Something like that. Nothing fancy. And by doing that with my teacher coaching I understood the fundamentals of mixing (I already was a musician and composer/arranger so that part was covered).

After a while then you might develop your own procedure for how construct the mix. You might be looking at a group that's really rhythmically driven and so you start with drums and bass, trying to get that 'cookin'. Make sure the kick and bass won't 'cancel' each other out and instead drive the right parts of the mix... with the rest of the kit. And then you can add the rhythm guitars. And then because you've decided that this is what drives this mix you'll then fit the vocals. But if you instead have a great voice and more of a singer-songwriter style perhaps you might want to start with getting a stunning vocal sound instead, and then other stuff will fit around that.

So you build up your roadmaps over time and things get easier to navigate.

I guess the gist of the question is maybe answered above... but I mean... it's a really, really big question...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sybille View Post
Mixing is far more complex than what you're describing. A good mixing engineer will not even remove clashing frequencies if he thinks it's actually not an issue in the specific mix he's working on or if he thinks it adds a subjective texture that's giving some needed density for example.

What you're asking is impossible to answer, mixing is a million things. Half of it is experience and taste, and the other half is what you said, knowing all the possible ways of fixing and enhancing stuff.


The best engineers just have their own artistic print on the mix, they have their own way, that's what separate them from amateurs. I don't think it's solely related to the numbers of purely technical strategies they know, it's important but that's far from being all of it IMO.

Interesting...

So I guess If I truly want to succeed at mixing I should first start learning how to craft pro arrangements; correct? As they go hand and hand.

It's kinda crazy to think about know that I will have to memorize and remember and be expected to know every way to fix every set of clashing elements? what if all the ones I know don't work?

What about enhancing things even when nothing needs to be fixed? How would one learn that?

Seeing what mixing really is now I have to say it is really overwhelming and I really don't know where to start.
Old 4th September 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
Interesting...

So I guess If I truly want to succeed at mixing I should first start learning how to craft pro arrangements; correct? As they go hand and hand.
Not necessarily, but it certainly helps to understand arranging and composition. For example; when I mix music these days it's mostly for TV. The way things are I'll do what's necessary to make things work under tight deadlines. If I hear two instruments clash and it's an arrangement issue, i.e. it doesn't work harmonically for example, then I might choose to either delete or heavily EQ the least important instrument. That's a crude solution and it's probably questionable to some people who might feel I'm stepping on the toes of the composer. On the other hand, if I'm given stuff that doesn't work 100% harmonically and there isn't time to go back and re-arrange it then what's the solution?

But having said that, you can absolutely start mixing without knowing how to arrange. After all, arranging is really another craft and there's no reason to think that that would be faster to learn that than mixing. If it takes you 5 years to become a pro mixer you can bet it'll take just as long to become a pro arranger... if not more.

Just start mixing and learn as you go, if that's where your passion lies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
It's kinda crazy to think about know that I will have to memorize and remember and be expected to know every way to fix every set of clashing elements?
Yeah but a lot of the solutions you'll come across will carry over to other situations. They generalize. Using an EQ on two instruments in order to make space for both is the same principle regardless of whether it's between an accordion and acoustic guitar or piano and banjo.

You'll end up learning that compression does certain things which makes it appropriate as a tool to solve certain problems, and not others. Same with reverb.

For example: adding reverb to an instrument will often make it sound like it's more in that artificial space, and it might feel like it moves backwards, away from the listener. It doesn't really matter if that's on a piano or banjo. The same principle applies. So if you want to bring the piano forward relative to the banjo you can let the latter have a bit more reverb, maybe none at all on the piano. But now that principle also applies to vocals versus acoustic guitar or whatever the pair is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
what if all the ones I know don't work?

What about enhancing things even when nothing needs to be fixed? How would one learn that?

Seeing what mixing really is now I have to say it is really overwhelming and I really don't know where to start.
Baby steps. You start with a simple mix with few elements. And then you do another. Then another. And so on. And at some point you run into mixes that are larger. And you do that for a while. And you'll maybe start moving away from one genre to another.

Just... baby steps... Rome wasn't built in a day.

-----

PS: I feel comfortable doing what I do for a living. And I'm not a complete fool. And I've done this for some time now. But when I hear my buddy's music mixes, a buddy that's absolutely top-notch as a music engineer, I sometimes am just blown away by how good it sounds. I can't do that. Maybe I could get there if I spent a few years just doing that and nothing else, but I didn't do that yet, so he's waaaay better at that than I am.

Point is; I don't feel bad about it. I'm happy he's great at it and I'm happy I'm decent at what I can do. Every time I hear something he's done I can ask a question and learn something. I'll probably never be as good as he is but that's fine because my focus lies elsewhere and that's where I spend my time. I pick up what I can from him when I can, and that's fine.

So don't feel bad. We all should be encouraged by these challenges and just take opportunities to learn when we can. It takes the time it takes...

PPS: I'm rambling... sorry...
Old 4th September 2019
  #7
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Sigma's Avatar
good song..good arrangement ...good recording...easy mix
Old 4th September 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigma View Post
good song..good arrangement ...good recording...easy mix

That may sound simple to sigma nails the truth there.

If you're doing your own recordings you need to know where the goal posts are before you try and kick. Otherwise you're wasting all kinds of energy on stuff that's giving you no benefits.

Goal #1 . Make sure you're in top shape so you can perform the music well. Its really no different then when you play out live. I used to pace myself days before a gig and spend a good deal of time not only making sure I knew the music and had my instruments in shape with fresh strings, but also mentally geard up as though I could predict what I'd be doing on stage as the night progressed.

You know what? It works. Without the preparation I would have been like a blind man crossing the street getting mowed down by a bus. If you aren't mentally and physically prepared, your recording is already doomed to sound like garbage before you even begin.

You need to not only be mentally and physically prepared, your instrument must be tweaked and intonated and the ideal tones dialed up so when you hit that record button you have the exact tones you need.

Don't know how to do that? Take your daw programs and import a commercial recording of your favorite band and jam along to that song while tweaking your sound. If you're doing a vocal part sing along with the singer, if its bass, guitar, drums keyboard or even a tambourine part, jam along to a high quality recording and match the sound as though you're part of that band.

Then when you are ready mute the commercial recording and track your own parts using the exact same settings. I cant stress just how important this is.

There is an important difficulty here you must identify and deal with. When you're jamming along with the that entire band you will be hearing a full frequency response. You'll hear the highs from Cymbals, low from the bass and kick and mids from everything from snare to vocals.

When you turn that commercial recording off to track your part, your instrument is going to sound very small without that wall of sound in back of it. Get used to in when recording. Its supposed to sound that way when all the other elements that cover the entire spectrum are removed.

The biggest mistake you can make is try and broaden your frequency response so a solo instrument sound big. If you're only recording one instrument and that's it, then go for it. Broaden the response as much as you want. You Don't do this when multitracking. Each instrument is a small portion of the whole and you wont be back to a full frequency recording until all your individual tracks are recorded.

Say you forget to keep that instrument in its own sandbox. This is what causes that all that masking you mentioned. What you'll wind up doing is EQing the crap out of it (if you even can) to make it fit in that box. As you try and get rid of the bad frequencies that clash, you wind up reducing allot of the frequencies you actually need to keep in order to make the track sound real.

Again, the goal is to have the track perfectly targeting the frequencies it needs, with ideal amounts of gain and compression so you never have to use those tools when mixing. You can even make that a religion if you want because its the absolute shortest path to getting high quality recordings.

Then, once the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle fit together seamlessly mixing, you can sit back and put some icing on the cake. I usually add my time based effects when mixing because I can get them to sound more three dimensional that way.

Other tools. Download a copy of Voxengo Span and use it to compare your instruments. Put it in your main buss and test your tracks to see where they wind up in comparison to your ears. A full mix should have the frequency response moving across the full frequency spectrum from 20 to 20K. A single instrument will only move a portion of that spectrum. How much none instrument overlaps another is going to affect noise levels and transparency and realism. If you have less overlap the instruments will stand out singularly. Allot of overlap will make them difficult to tell apart. Neither of those are bad they are simply techniques you need to use depending on the music you're producing and the desired effect.
Old 5th September 2019
  #9
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To add to what Sybille said above, it's too easy to obsess about separation and see that as the holy grail when what the mix needs is the opposite.
Things often sound more out of place when they're disjointed and incongruous because they're so isolated.
Old 5th September 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
To add to what Sybille said above, it's too easy to obsess about separation and see that as the holy grail when what the mix needs is the opposite.
Things often sound more out of place when they're disjointed and incongruous because they're so isolated.
what are some techniques I can look into If I feel two instruments can and should be blended? how would I remove the transient with one and only have the sustain on the others? using a transient design plugin?
Old 5th September 2019
  #11
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my question is this though. Basically. There is a tier or ball park I am not in and that most are not in. There has to be some tracking chain that these pros know that we don't because when I play these two alone they sound amazing and like a song with just the two of them.


Basically I know arranging matters and knowing how to mix matters but I stress and obsess over how these pros are doing vocal and tracking processing because these pros like max martin and serban get their vocal so dam good that the vocal in itself is a song. you can play this vocal by itself or with one instrument and you are instantly pulled in emotionally...
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Old 5th September 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
you can play this vocal by itself or with one instrument and you are instantly pulled in emotionally...
Yep. And you want to know why? It's b/c of the melody, and the manner in which it was sung. Hand that same melody off to someone who doesn't know how to sing, and you are not pulled in emotionally. Have Ariana sing some other bland, boring melody with no definable rhythm, and you are not pulled in emotionally.

When you add to that a great mic, mic pre, good use of compression, good use of eq, good use of delay and verb, and a good room to record in, you have magic.

So yeah, the recording eng and mixing eng play a role, but the magic isn't created and harnessed by them; it's created and harnessed by the melody and performance. And that's where you need to look FIRST.

Cheers.
Old 5th September 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
There has to be some tracking chain that these pros know that we don't because when I play these two alone they sound amazing and like a song with just the two of them.
It has to sound like that before you put a mic in front of it.

The tracking chain captures the magic, it doesn't create it.
Old 5th September 2019
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas_Music View Post
my question is this though. Basically. There is a tier or ball park I am not in and that most are not in. There has to be some tracking chain that these pros know that we don't because when I play these two alone they sound amazing and like a song with just the two of them.


Basically I know arranging matters and knowing how to mix matters but I stress and obsess over how these pros are doing vocal and tracking processing because these pros like max martin and serban get their vocal so dam good that the vocal in itself is a song. you can play this vocal by itself or with one instrument and you are instantly pulled in emotionally...

Be careful though, what you posted is heavily processed. You can hear a minimum of an original track plus a autotuned doubled bounced with it and a big fx delay buss tucked behind.

What I mean is those vocals are not "one thing alone", the track might be one because of bouncing but there's a lot involved into it, sometimes severals tracks and several busses combined together.

Ofc it's sounding fuller because there are several subtle layers overlapping, kind of making a sort of harmony/doubling of the sound in the same way a choir singing something always sound fuller and more musical than a raw mono singer acapella.

The autotune is sharper (hit the notes perfectly) than the original vocals so it adds some strength and density and the huge delay stretch the vocals in time, adding dimension and depth for example.

And yes, you're right, when it's heavy handed like that, with such "power" and "dimension" added to your vocals, any common synth pad added behind it would be sufficient to make those simple two tracks sound like a credible decent song already.

But if you were to do that with a more genuine, intimate type of vocals, much more upfront and dry, that would be an all other story, depends on the style.
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