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Where should I begin with learning mixing?
Old 19th October 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Where should I begin with learning mixing?

I've been doing everything by ear for the last 6 or 7 years I've been doing this, I'm just now realizing that a lot of the things that I've been doing may not be what's right and it's not getting the results that I desire. That's including compressors, equalizers, reverb, stereo panning, expanders etc. Where is the best place to start learning how to properly use all of these devices? This is all software based, but I'm just curious.

I'm actually kind of embarrassed that I have no real technical prowess or know how when speaking with friends that have taken years of Audio Tech courses.
Old 19th October 2013
  #2
start asking questions in this thread. thats a good starting point.
Old 19th October 2013
  #3
Gear Head
 
Iconoclasm's Avatar
 

Buy your friends dinner and beers and pick their brains. Ask them if you can sit in on a mix session. Ask a lot questions.

Books and online articles help too.

Sent from my DROID BIONIC
Old 19th October 2013
  #4
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Every time I look up an EQ'ing tutorial, they seem to know where to cut off certain signals that would lead to other noises being more prominent in the mix, such as bringing a snare more upfront or melting backup vocals into the background, how do people know where to mix these signals at on an EQ? And another question I've had a lot! How do people get an electric bass to sound so clean in a mix? I am using a lot of starter gear for the interface and it seems like it always sounds trashy, muddled and disgusting every time I record with it, never clear, never clean or smooth!
Old 19th October 2013
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by wraithsnow View Post
Every time I look up an EQ'ing tutorial, they seem to know where to cut off certain signals that would lead to other noises being more prominent in the mix, such as bringing a snare more upfront or melting backup vocals into the background, how do people know where to mix these signals at on an EQ? And another question I've had a lot! How do people get an electric bass to sound so clean in a mix? I am using a lot of starter gear for the interface and it seems like it always sounds trashy, muddled and disgusting every time I record with it, never clear, never clean or smooth!
For your first question, a great STARTING point would be to memorize these general frequency ranges per instrument. They are rarely universal, however they are good references. So for example, I notice that my female vocal is too sharp in the mix so I start cutting around 1khz or 5khz. Or if I notice that mix bass and kick are masking eachother, I'll check frequencies at 50hz and 100hz. I know these off the top of my head.

A lot of engineers will disagree with me, but I also like to use a frequency analyzer to check for great frequency energies in conflicting instruments and I take note of the ranges. Then I boost/cut appropriately.

The actual process of mixing can be a lot more convoluted than this.



For your second question, to record a great bass tone:

1) try to use the right pickup for the song. If the song already has heavy bass elements, then use your bridge pickup (less lows). If the song is lacking lows then switch to your neck pickup.

2) The next step would be to record with a low input level. Aim for -18dbFS to -10dBFS. Most people record too damn hot.

3) Use a compressor to tame the bass (compress about 6dB w/ about 6:1 ratio, and slow attack to let the transients in)

4) If a particular note sticks out, you can a) reduce it's volume by hand or b) determine which note it is (A/B/C, etc) and look up the note's frequency range. Then do a heavy cut at that frequency.
Old 19th October 2013
  #6
Old 19th October 2013
  #7
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ILL GREEN's Avatar
Start out by layering stuff one track at a time and try to level everything into balance. That would be a basic but gigantic lesson for you. Try to make the sounds harmonize without clipping it. The EQing, compression and other stuff comes later as you see fit. Learn to level and pan.
Old 19th October 2013
  #8
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Actually, I might buy some of these books, I've got a fresh batch of student loans coming in and what better way to spend them than on learning. Gruenburger, thank you so much! I will start looking into general tonal ranges of the instruments I tend to record. I think another large problem that I'm having is the interfaces, microphones and instruments I'm using. I think the best way way for me to improve as a musician may be a fresh start, sell my tiny baby usb 2.0 50 dollar interface, upgrade to proper mid-level firewire interfaces.

Another huge question I have is about mic placement and a sub question from there, what kind of microphones to use for each situation. Is it all about trial and error in accordance with each room you use? Or is there a tome of reference people use to get started with mic'ing??
Old 19th October 2013
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ILL GREEN View Post
Start out by layering stuff one track at a time and try to level everything into balance. That would be a basic but gigantic lesson for you. Try to make the sounds harmonize without clipping it. The EQing, compression and other stuff comes later as you see fit. Learn to level and pan.
I guess I should link some of the tracks I have made in order to show where I am with my production, I just felt kind of scared that I'd come off as an advertiser If I started hounding my tracks at people. I'll link one of the things I've been working on for a few days and having a lot of trouble with. mind you this particular track is entirely electronic (VST and sample based)

The problems with it to me is that a lot of the individual tracks are peaking, even when mixed solo, the plunky bits of piano and rubber bands aren't nearly as prominent as I'd like
Old 20th October 2013
  #10
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I thought this was a great book - takes you through a mix from A-Z - lots of great reviews for it too. Is geared towards the small studio and takes into account the limitations there. I recommended it to a friend of mine who had never mixed anything and I can't believe how fast her mixes have improved. I do help her too sometimes with stuff but mike senior's book is basically her bible and has taught her tons. Taught me a few things too, I should have known but didn't!! He's quite funny as well, so it's not a tedious read. Edit: should also have said, he has a chapter on each of the processors you mentioned above, compression, eq, delay, limiting, reverb, even side-chain compression - when to use them and how to use them in a mix. Even has a little section on using delays instead of reverb, something that I was always wondering about but didn't fully understand

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixing-Secre...+senior+mixing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixing-Secre...+senior+mixing
Old 20th October 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdoghat View Post
I thought this was a great book - takes you through a mix from A-Z - lots of great reviews for it too. Is geared towards the small studio and takes into account the limitations there. I recommended it to a friend of mine who had never mixed anything and I can't believe how fast her mixes have improved. I do help her too sometimes with stuff but mike senior's book is basically her bible and has taught her tons. Taught me a few things too, I should have known but didn't!! He's quite funny as well, so it's not a tedious read

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixing-Secre...+senior+mixing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixing-Secre...+senior+mixing
just jump in and leave this thread.

everyone here just collects gear but never uses it.
Old 20th October 2013
  #12
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I used my gear last night and plan to use it again tonite, does that count?
Old 20th October 2013
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdoghat View Post
I used my gear last night and plan to use it again tonite, does that count?
only on tuesdays
Old 20th October 2013
  #14
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Oh good, then I can spend all those other days more productively and do more reading. Ah no seriously, it's important to have the basics. You can dive in and do and do and mix and mix but if you don't fully understand what your gear is doing, it's going to be a much longer road without the basics under your belt. Mike's book is phenomenal for educating on the common practices, often done unwittingly, through misuse or overuse of plug-ins that result in an average mix. Great for people who have mixing experience but not pro and are ready to take it to the next level.
Old 20th October 2013
  #15
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recording revolution vids on youtube help plenty, and it doesnt assume you have "all the plugs and gear in the world"

just google "recording revolution" and you'll find him
Old 20th October 2013
  #16
Here for the gear
 

recording revolution vids on youtube help plenty, and it doesnt assume you have "all the plugs and gear in the world"

just google "recording revolution" and you'll find him
Old 20th October 2013
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillAsh View Post
recording revolution vids on youtube help plenty, and it doesnt assume you have "all the plugs and gear in the world"

just google "recording revolution" and you'll find him
Yup. The Groove 3 Kenny Gioia (spelling?) Mixing Rock and Mixing in Reaper vids will do wonders for getting it sussed out as well.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #18
Gear Nut
Pensadosplace.tv is a great site too.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #19
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loujudson's Avatar
For that bass - first, make sure it sound the way you want it to in the room! Then you may be able to get that sound recording. If it sounds bad in the room, it won't sound right recorded... This includes hearing in your monitors if you go direct, before hitting record.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #20
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CocaineAudio's Avatar
compression and eq are your best friend.. google them and read up on them.. also youtube videos will help..
Old 24th October 2013
  #21
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code green's Avatar
Just to start with EQ: as someone mentioned above, it can be very helpful to get a general sense from books, etc., of where on the audio spectrum the component parts--attack, fundamental, harmonics, air, mud, sizzle, "meat," etc.--of a given instrument tend to fall. This will give you a starting point to guide your ears. Next, take a track you'd like to sculpt into something better-sounding, apply a parametric EQ, set a 10 dB boost with the narrowest Q, set a section of the track on repeat, and sweep the EQ slowly over the track. Note what you're hearing at each point of the spectrum--where the mud is, where the most pleasing sounds are, where the attack is emphasized, etc. Do that often enough, on enough different sources, and you'll start to get an innate sense of the spectrum as it applies to different instruments.

This, btw, is how you can identify problem frequencies you'll want to cut--resonance, ringing, buzz, noise, mud, etc. As a rule of thumb, try cutting before boosting. If a track, e.g., doesn't sound bright enough to your ears, cut low frequencies before boosting highs.

Listen critically at each stage--e.g., now that I've cut those resonant frequencies, have I also robbed the track of some of its life? Now that I've cut all those low frequencies, have I made the track too brittle? If so, you may have to go back and make the cuts less deep, or make the cuts more narrow.

Knowing the frequency ranges of given instruments/sources will also help you learn where there's nothing going on for a given track, which can aid hi/lo-passing so that your accumulated tracks don't step on each other and occupy their discrete places in a mix.

And while sweeping solo'd tracks is a great way to learn EQ--and identify problem frequencies in a given track--for mixing, you'll want to avoid EQ'ing solo'd tracks...EQ'ing within the context of the other tracks is key. What sounds good solo'd isn't always what sounds good in a mix.
Old 25th October 2013
  #22
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Another big +1 for the Mike Senior book. Plus it's backed up by a (free) online resource of multitracks that you can have a go at mixing. (The 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library (Cambridge Music Technology)).

A good number of those are mixes he's done for SOS magazine's Mix Rescue feature — which you can also read for free online — so you get to read about how he approached each mix and why, what plug-ins he used — and then practice on the same material. In some of them, he's just used freebie or DAW inbuilt plug-ins too...
Old 28th October 2013
  #23
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Short of interning at a recording studio, or going to a recording/mixing school, this is what I'd do:

I'd reverse engineer a reference song you like and know well. Make sure you know the song forward and backwards in terms of how the bass/drums/vocal/guitars/keyboards etc. etc. sound. Pick a song that has an interview with the recording and mixing engineer. Find out everything you can about what they did in recording and mixing the song.

Go out to a club and find the best cover band that is covering the song. Pay them to record the song. Record the song with the best tools you have available. Import the reference song into your DAW along with your recorded song.

Listen carefully to every track of the cover band's performance. Ask yourself what is different from the reference song. Then, when you've identified what is different go about reading/studying/learning your tools of EQ/Compression/Delay/Reverb/and all they myriad ways of signal routing. Chip away at the discrepancies between your recorded version and the reference song.

You'll learn a lot by doing this if you're truly dedicated. There is no excuse for not knowing how to understand and describe EQ/Compression/Delay/Reverb if you're dedicated. You probably won't come as close as you'll want to matching the reference song, but you'll be on the road to getting better. Don't settle. Make sure at the end you have a working knowledge and vocabulary of mixing. Then, do it with another song. Repeat....
Old 28th October 2013
  #24
Gear Nut
 

One of the things I really wish I had started to do earlier was learn to get sounds sounding great at the source. Before you even touch a volume fader or pan pot, the mixing process begins. So, I'd recommend diving into topics like mic placement or learn the different controls on synths and how you can mold your sounds before even worrying about eq.

If your mix is starting to sound like a finished record before you even touch any effects, you know you're on the right track!

Happy mixing and learning!

Brandon

Last edited by ColourfulSound; 28th October 2013 at 03:16 AM.. Reason: Shameful typo
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