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Learning Curve Frustrations
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 
hausey187's Avatar
Learning Curve Frustrations

Hey Guys and Gals,

I've been working on a "demo" that's evolved into 4 songs, an intro, and an interlude for over 5 years. The whole thing has been an extreme learning process and I've probably re-recorded it 10 times over. The songs are mostly edited sans vocals but I've been struggling with some mix and master tests. I just can't seem to get them to sound interesting and dynamic. They are also relatively quiet compared to reference mixes.
Currently I'm using SSD4 for the drums, podfarm for the bass tones, and Nameless suite for the guitars. I also invested in a Radial reamp box and sm57 but the reamping results have been a little so so. I'm using Reaper as my Daw and running Yamaha H5's through a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. I also have some JST plugins and play around mostly with Clip, Finality, and Transify. For mastering stuff I've been using the reaper provided plug ins as well as Drawmer S73.
I'm not shooting for perfection, I just don't want it to sound embarrassing! I've listened to tracks by people who are using similar gear/plugins as me and they sound way better than anything I've got to yet. Ive also contemplated sending them out but I really want to learn so I'd rather do it myself but feel like I've kinda hit a wall.
I added a clip from one of the songs, I'm def embarrassed about it at the moment so be kind! I'm also very green so I know I have a lot to learn, But any advice that could point me in the right direction would be very much appreciated.
Attached Files

gearslutz.wav (11.61 MB, 281 views)

Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Here for the gear
 

I hesitated to give advice as I am really at the start of the learning curve too, but one key thing about using reference tracks during mixing is to lower them in volume as any commercial release post mastering is impossible to match.
Get the free Youlean Loudness meter and stick it on the monitor effects chain along with Voxengo Span. Play the loudest section of your song and you should be below -16 LUFS pre mastering (even lower is better). Adjust the track or item volume of the reference down to the same short term loudness. Now the two are the same level you can compare them. Your ears hear things differently at even imperceptible volumes differences.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Quote:
They are also relatively quiet compared to reference mixes.
Ware did you find reference mixes and why are you using them? They are not mastered and not meant for human ears. You should be using references that are mastered.
anyways, reference mixes should never be judged by volume as they are not finished products, so it doesn't matter.
Quote:
I've listened to tracks by people who are using similar gear/plugins as me and they sound way better than anything I've got to yet.
One thing to learn is its not the gear, its what you do with the gear. You have everything needed to make a great sounding song, except the knowledge of how to use your tools.

But that is easy to fix!
I would learn everything about everything on every piece of gear that you use, like you should know exactly what and how the ratio of a compressor effects the signal and learn more about how sound effects other sounds in a mix. Its over looked a lot and its very important. Know what the relationships of how a kick drum can effect the bass guitar sound.

I would also learn how to create a 3D mix with the use of mid and side EQ techniques, reverbs, delays and panning techniques. A mix should not sound left right and middle. You should be placing instrument in the back center, front right, middle left, 60% right front, 60% middle left, front center, back center and so on.

Once you know your tools and gain some more knowledge, you can mix great sounding songs. how long that will take? I dunno? It depends on how many hours a day you spend studying and doing.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Here for the gear
 

If you want an overview of Mastering and guidance about all sorts of technical aspects I have found Ian Shepherds Blogs and Podcasts very informative. The Podcasts especially as I can listen to them on my commute.

http://productionadvice.co.uk/about/

http://themasteringshow.com/

Jon Tidey who contributes on the PodCasts is also the person behind The Reaper Blog.

https://reaperblog.net/
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 
hausey187's Avatar
Great advice everyone! Thanks! I didn't mean to sound like I thought my gear would do the work for me, and I think you're right in that I really don't have a good understanding of how I should be applying them. The reference mix I referred to is just a finished track from another band that I'm hoping to get in the ballpark of but I'll lay off comparing until I get a better grip on things. I'm also going to spend some time on the 3D mix aspect as I don't think I've been addressing it properly. I'll also def check out those podcasts and blogs.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
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Owen L T's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hausey187 View Post
Great advice everyone! Thanks! I didn't mean to sound like I thought my gear would do the work for me, and I think you're right in that I really don't have a good understanding of how I should be applying them. The reference mix I referred to is just a finished track from another band that I'm hoping to get in the ballpark of but I'll lay off comparing until I get a better grip on things. I'm also going to spend some time on the 3D mix aspect as I don't think I've been addressing it properly. I'll also def check out those podcasts and blogs.
Reference mixes are an important tool to mixers of all levels, and recommended by everyone from Dave Pensado to Fab Dupont. I think (but am not sure) that CJ got the impression you were talking about using unmastered mixes as a reference, as I can't think of any other reason to suggest that's a bad idea.

They are super useful for keeping track of something approaching true north while mixing, though there is no *real* true north, as every judgement call is a matter of degree, rather than a right or wrong.

Having a number of genre-specific mixes of tracks that you rate highly, and towards which you are working, can be used for all kinds of things, including: overall spectral balance of the mix; specific tonal/volume relationship between different elements, like bass and kick, drums and guitars; how high the vocal sits in the mix; weight of the bottom end. One great insight into this process, for me, was in the Dave Pensado clip on reference mixes, where he mentioned that he referenced Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" as a guide to whether a vocal was tipping over the bright-and-airy threshold, into sibiliance; that he felt that particular vocal was at the absolute limit to how much air a vocal could have, without needing additional de-essing. I had a listen to the track myself, and thought "holy s**t - I hear exactly what he meant by that".

A fantastic plugin called Magic AB is great for that; you put it on the last insert of your 2 buss, and can load a bunch of different reference tracks, all of which you can set to loop to specific parts of that reference. Then, at any point while playing back your own track, you hit the A/B button, and hear the current reference track instead. I usually lower the output of the references by a couple dBs, as they will otherwise sound louder, and the point of reference mixes is not about absolute loudness.

OOPS.

Okay, I went looking for a link to MagicAB, and see that all SampleMagic's plugins are being discontinued, following the sale of the company, and that MagicAB is no longer available.

You may need to google "alternatives to MagicAB" if interested, though here's one I did find.

https://www.masteringthemix.com/products/reference

Pretty dumb call by the new owners. MagicAB was the first reference mix tool, absolutely nailed the functionality, and had zero real competition.
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