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How does it all glue together?
Old 11th October 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 

How does it all glue together?

I have a few questions to help strengthen my foundational theory on the tracking, mixing, mix-down and mastering process. I've read a lot of articles, watched many videos but there are gaps in my current level of knowledge on the whole process. Maybe I haven't been asking the correct questions or learning from the right sources but I can't afford time to take classes on mixing/mastering engineering. I play the guitar and drums, have albums to record and I want to do it myself(maybe even mastering).
This is my current understanding of the three
chains and how they interlock, please feel free to correct any errors in my knowledge.

Parte 1: Tracking.

Basic tracking is done via 1.Instrument -> 2.Transducer -> 3.Analog Signal -> 4.ADC -> 5.Digital Signal - > 6.Interface -> 7. DAW memory.

So the instrument can be voice, string, keys; the transducer a mic, preamp, di-box; that outputs an analog signal; adc samples the analog signal into digital information; information passes through the interface; is printed into DAW. Basic print.

Q1. Now sometimes we like to add eq and compression(in whatever order) during tracking itself. How does this work, why do it now? Why even that one track that probably needs it? Why not during mixing? We might need to eq again during mixing, but do we compress tracks during mixing that were already compressed during tracking? What is the order in which the comp and eq are placed if they are needed during tracking? Many analog mixers and consoles don't have a comp section on their channels. But still sometimes, vocals are compressed during tracking, why? What kind of tracks demand compression during tracking?

Q2. For guitar, bass and other instruments with analog/digital effects. Are effects tracked? without dry signal? I mean, recording a guitat cabinet with effects mixed in. Is this even legal? Or do we mix each effect in during mixing. What about modulation effect(phasers, flangers)? I get why reverb is mostly done last but what about the rest? Is it good practice to mix them in later?
What if you're recording out of an axefx or kemper?

Parte 2: Mixing and Mix-down.

Really enjoy the concept, at least what I think I know about it. Arranging the track frequencies so they don't interfere much with each other, making some tracks pop and others more subtle. Pan staging.

So the chain to my knowledge is, 1.DAW memory -> 2.Digital signal -> 3.DAC -> 4.Analog signal ->???Line/mic preamp??? -> 5.EQ -> 6.Compression(some tracks) -> 7.Worked signal ->???ADC->DAW (or) Mix-Down???

Obviously, mixing is a huge topic to be dumbed down like this but just need a clean overview here.

Q3. After step 4, is it necessary to feed the signal thru a line pre of some sort(a clean transparent one ofc, don't want to add color here) or pass it thru the mic pre on the board or is it better to bypass the pre completely? Under what conditions must one first route the signal thru a line/mic pre before mixing?

Q4. Sends/returns/aux: It would be great if someone can just point me towards a GOOD resource for this. My understanding of this is that an auxiliary copy of the channel signal(dry) is routed to an effects channel sitting on some effects. This wet is then routed back and summed with the dry? Or it stays in the effects channel??? I am weak on this section and haven't found a sufficient resource to clarify any doubts. Pls help.

Q5. Do you eq/compress the effects (wet) signal? When? Which ones? Why?

Q6. After equalizing and comping the signal completely, where are all the channel signals to go? Do we print back individual tracks into DAW thru ADC or do we just sum the all the hot signals -> mastering ADC and print it into the daw after summing? Or do we sum the drums first, print; then the guitars, print; and so on and create 'stems' first that way and then again thru DAC, EQ again and SUM and ADC? If stems aren't born this way please tell me how.

Parte 3: Mastering.

We have a final 'stem', one stereo track. Time to unload the big guns, Mastering EQ, SHELVING EQ, Surgical EQ, Mastering COMP, Multi-Band COMP, LIMITER.. -> Mastering ADC -> HIT THE TAPES(not actual tapes, thats too expensive). fin.

Q7. It is just done one stereo track right? I've read somewhere the mastering engineers ask for/prefer individual stems along with the final mix. Is this because they hate your mix and wanna do it better themselves in 30s or is it because they want to use it as some sort of reference? Or do you just need the stems for mastering?

There may be some glaring gaps in my overview. Please correct them, give me your input, I really dig this sound wizardary behind all music and am humbled by its depth. Whatever information I typed above, I've casually gathered over the last 4 months and I believe the education will extend well into the next two/three decades as I also happen to be an aspiring EE major.

I have respect for DSP and 'ITB' mixing. But I need an analog board. I just know it. An old soundcraft or something similar to begin with, maybe I'll even mod it.
Thanks for reading, please answer my questions if you got time, it will really help me round off my knowledge on the subject.
Old 11th October 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
decocco's Avatar
 

Tracking is the recording of the music onto some form of multitrack media.

Mixing is the process of combining the multiple tracks and recording the result into the final number of desired tracks; let’s assume you intend to create a stereo recording so you mix down to two tracks.

Mastering is where the above 2-track mix is processed for final delivery. It can result in digital masters for CDs and downloads or perhaps a lacquer master for producing vinyl records.

Processing can be added at any point and is often used in every step: tracking, mixing and mastering. It is used wherever it is deemed necessary.

Q:How do you know when or where to EQ or compress?

A:Your ears/brain will tell you. You develop this knowledge through experience. A mentor is invaluable.
Old 11th October 2019
  #3
Lives for snowflakes
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco View Post
Q:How do you know when or where to EQ or compress?

A:Your ears/brain will tell you.

You develop this knowledge through experience.

A mentor is invaluable.
Exactly!
The answer to this question is mostly down to Tacit Knowledge:
Wikipedia's entry for "Tacit Knowledge"
.
Old 12th October 2019
  #4
Gear Guru
 

it depends

Quote:
Originally Posted by kettlecorn123 View Post
I
Q1. Now sometimes we like to add eq and compression(in whatever order) during tracking itself. How does this work, why do it now? Why even that one track that probably needs it? Why not during mixing?
why not during mixing indeed?
there are a few reasons that make sense to me
1. hardware processors are sometimes thought to sound 'nicer' than their modeled plugin equivalents. "Mojo". It is far easier to get the hardware processor "involved" on the way in than via reamping or using it at mixdown.
2. you may not have "enough" hardware processors to "kiss" all your tracks at mixdown so kissing them on the way in is the only way to get that "Mojo" on all your tracks - assuming you are overdubbing.
3. If you have the Experience to make good decisions, some people find committing to a decision to be an Artistic advantage. This is pretty vague and of course you can commit to a bad decision too. Especially if you don't have the experience.
Quote:
We might need to eq again during mixing, but do we compress tracks during mixing that were already compressed during tracking?
I might, but that's the "experience" thing on the part of the tracking engineer again. Knowing how much is "not too much" so that you have 'room' to compress again.

Quote:
What is the order in which the comp and eq are placed if they are needed during tracking?
seriously, "it depends"

Quote:
Many analog mixers and consoles don't have a comp section on their channels. But still sometimes, vocals are compressed during tracking, why? What kind of tracks demand compression during tracking?
with 24 bit digital recording, IMO no tracks "demand" compression during tracking. It used to be needed to protect the tape from overloads. Now it is only those tracks you want to be kissed by your Magical Mojo Hardware. One exception might be: some singers like to hear compression as they sing. Of course with systems like the UAD, you can put a compressor plugin on the vocal for the cue mix and still track it dry.

Quote:
Q2. For guitar, bass and other instruments with analog/digital effects. Are effects tracked? without dry signal?
it depends. In the studio, I like to take a DI before any pedals. For live concerts I will only take the DI after the pedals. I know there is too much bleed for me to "reinvent" the guitar sound.

Quote:
I mean, recording a guitat cabinet with effects mixed in. Is this even legal?
What comes out of the speaker cabinet is the guitarists intention. Pretty bold of me to circumvent his artistic intentions, IMO! My effects might be less noisy than his, but he may need to hear it as he plays. In any case, I am fortunate to record mostly excellent players so having respect for their sonic palette comes easier for me.

Many effects change how the musician performs. If you had no distortion pedal maybe the guitar note would die out and the guitarist would feel compelled to re-attack that note or play another one. With the pedal it might sustain for 4 measures and he can sit there holding that note and maybe putting a little vibrato in.

Quote:
So the chain to my knowledge is, 1.DAW memory -> 2.Digital signal -> 3.DAC -> 4.Analog signal ->???Line/mic preamp??? -> 5.EQ -> 6.Compression(some tracks) -> 7.Worked signal ->???ADC->DAW (or) Mix-Down???
No superfluous "preamp" is required after the DAC. The signals are already all at line level. Some people do seek it for color, that's it.

Quote:
Q4. Sends/returns/aux: ...My understanding of this is that an auxiliary copy of the channel signal(dry) is routed to an effects channel sitting on some effects. This wet is then routed back and summed with the dry?
that's about right
Quote:
Q5. Do you eq/compress the effects (wet) signal? When? Which ones? Why?
it depends

Quote:
Q6. After equalizing and comping the signal completely, where are all the channel signals to go? Do we print back individual tracks into DAW thru ADC ?
Lord no. We are mixing. Let's mix already. Let's spare ourselves another unnecessary conversion while we are at it.

Quote:
or do we just sum the all the hot signals -> mastering ADC and print it into the daw after summing?
or print it to tape - or print it to some other kind of device

Quote:
Or do we sum the drums first, print; then the guitars, print; and so on and create 'stems' first that way and then again thru DAC, EQ again and SUM and ADC?
I usually do not make stems until after my mix is done and approved. And then only if requested by the client. Then I would break them out from my final mix. I certainly would never "create stems" and then "create a mix from those stems" - for example.
Quote:
If stems aren't born this way please tell me how.
"Stems" are born when Satan visits the earth during the New Moon. A lot of chanting is involved and sometimes human sacrifice.

Quote:
I've read somewhere the mastering engineers ask for/prefer individual stems along with the final mix.
No mastering engineer that I have worked with asks me for stems. IME this is a relatively new practice that I only read about on Gearslutz. It seems to me to be designed for them to be able to rescue the really bad self-mixing jobs they are getting more and more of - as commercial studios disappear and more and more people 'teach themselves' how to "mix".

Quote:
But I need an analog board. I just know it. An old soundcraft or something similar to begin with, maybe I'll even mod it.
Don't forget, you will need 16-24 channels of high-quality D to A to go along with it. ($$$) Your Audio Chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Seems a bit odd to me to be spending big bucks on Hardware Compressors and Analog Summing, all those converters, etc and then just running it all through "an old soundcraft".

Quote:
I just know it.
Surprising, how you have such certainty on this one topic and not on any of the others. Mixing is mixing, and IMO you can learn the exact same skills analog or digital and transfer them back and forth OTB or ITB any time you like.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco View Post
Q:How do you know when or where to EQ or compress?

A:Your ears/brain will tell you. You develop this knowledge through experience. A mentor is invaluable.
Thank you for your response! So It's more of a calculated freestyle than strict procedure, based on experience. I get it now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Don't forget, you will need 16-24 channels of high-quality D to A to go along with it. ($$$) Your Audio Chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Seems a bit odd to me to be spending big bucks on Hardware Compressors and Analog Summing, all those converters, etc and then just running it all through "an old soundcraft".



Surprising, how you have such certainty on this one topic and not on any of the others. Mixing is mixing, and IMO you can learn the exact same skills analog or digital and transfer them back and forth OTB or ITB any time you like.
Thank you so much!! Sorry for the delayed post. I understand now where exactly the gaps are in my knowledge about signal flow. Your response is really valuable, there's more clarity in my google searches now

Currently, I have a mytek stereo 192 DSD for dac and a blacklion sparrow 2 white for adc. The mytek isn't with me yet. Once it's here, I'll hook the units to my babyface pro's optical in outs. This will suffice for single stereo or dual mono processing for a while I believe. I'll diy two channels with 500 series(kit) units. Might need two more channels for effects. Finalizing on the type of pan circuit right now, before I build my own. This is going to result in a rather obnoxious workflow but I'll manage.

When I get a small-medium format console the plan is to upgrade to higher channel count converters and a pcie card.

I meant the soundcraft 2400 or the 1600 desks all cleaned up and recapped when I said 'old soundcraft board'. From my understanding, those have good potential standing up to meaner boards from neve, ssl.

I'm learning signal flow and how to mix ITB with Live, will probably pickup a used xtouch by behringer for a better workflow soon. But I still maintain my position on wanting to mix on an analog console. It's just feels natural(the appeal). I'm guessing I'll settle on a hybrid setup in the end though.
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