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Seperation In Your Mix: How You Do It? Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 14th November 2002
  #1
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

Seperation In Your Mix: How You Do It?

My apologies for not starting a thread for a few days now, responding to all the other cool threads has kept me really busy, but this is a thread I really wanted to get going. I'll chime in soon with how I approach this.

As I see it, separation of the different elements of the mix is essentially our core responsibility as mixers; everything else we do is built upon this skill. So, my question is:

What are the techniques you use to separate the various instruments in your mixes? Please explain in as much detail as you can.

This should be a fun thread.

Thanks.
Old 14th November 2002
  #2
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doug_hti's Avatar
 

this is what separates the men from the boys isn't it!

These are some of the things I do.
please make other suggestions, confirmations, or criticisms...as I'm not a mixer and am trying to figure out how to do things better myself. All of these are general statements pertaining to a average full band pop track. These are just things I find myself doing more often than not on a track.

EQ - If there are a lot of tracks, I may notch out frequencies in tracks that are not needed. It seems that synths especially hog some of the subsonic low end. If you've got a pad and plenty of other tracks covering the low end, maybe put high pass up around 80-100 on it...
I try Pull out lower mids on vocals (250), especially on females, as it seems there is a build up in the 125-500 area of the overall mix.
I try to have the Kick boosted around 70-80, or everything around that brought down
I try to emphasize the bass just above the kick. If I notch out the kick area on the bass track, I may put a octave down pitch changer on it and have it sit down to where you really don't know it's there.
Use conservative gates on the drums.
Have clean guitars use the mid area 400-800
Acoustic guitars, I pull out some lower mid, maybe put in a little 4-6k sparkle (low q)
Strings, I may notch out some 1-2k bite (depending on how close the mics were) and put in a little high end sparkle around 10k (especially if they were recorded with vintage 251s or u87 or some other tube mics)
Vocals vary so much

Pan - I try to put things in seperate places and not have a whole lot up the middle, except lead vox, kick, most of the time bass and snare
vocals, it depends on how many there are, what feel you need, but I usually pan out (x amount) of pairs to some degree and have them equal to each other

Delays - delays on synths, loops/perc, and vocals seem to make things a bit more three dimensional and bring things forward a bit differently then compression.

I try to achieve a natural yet pretty bright sound, more on the end of crunchy than not...
Old 14th November 2002
  #3
Jax
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"What are the techniques you use to separate the various instruments in your mixes? Please explain in as much detail as you can."

Interesting topic, leaving enough unsaid to make me think of all the ways instruments can be separated, and how I try to implement those ways.

I think there are at least five fields for separation in a mix: width, depth, frequency, arrangement, and vibe. Separation is the sum of the parts, and not any one in particular.

This thread is related to mixing, which I approach from the recording process onwards. I always listen to the band play together out in the live room. If I see them playing things that I don't really hear because of clashing frequencies or other problems, I'll mention that some sounds might not separate in the recording if we don't work on them first. This is usually a good suggestion, and I haven't had a problem getting people to pay closer attention to what they're playing beforehand.

At this stage we are working primarily on frequencies that interfere with eachother. If guitar tones are clashing, I'll try anything from suggesting a different guitar and/or amp, to playing with less or no distortion, to changing effects settings that are too similar to the other player's, to moving an amp into the hallway I have with lots of bright early reflections. Other times suggesting that one of them play rhythmically different, sparse, or tonally different parts can work out very well.

At mix time, how I pan guitar tracks depends on what the tracks are doing in relation to the drums, which I like to have lot of room to slam. If they are droning, thick, wall of sound guitars, I usually get them as far away from eachother as possible, hard L and R. If it's more of a rhythm guitars/lead thing, I'll usually plant the rhythm guitars wherever the biggest pockets are inside or outside of the drumkit mix. When the lead comes in, I'll make space for it by lowering the rhythm tracks. Ideally, I like any pockets I can find in my drum mix to have enough room in frequency and rhythm for the guitars.

For keeping the bass guitar frequencies from interfering with the guitars, I tend to high pass the guitars at around 150-200hz with a gradual slope. The gradual slope retains some of the power in the low frequencies while giving the bass and drums enough room to punch at the same time. Guitarists often don't like this sound in solo until the bass is added below. I can lower the HP filter as much as they want, but it can get to a point where it sounds like Metallica's "... And Justice for All" with the bass getting buried under the guitars.

Separating the bass guitar from the kick is something that seems to change from band to band. In general though, I'll roll them both off at @ 40-50hz and pan them in exact middle. I find that too much sub info clouds up the overall low frequency spectrum, and it becomes harder to tell where the boom is coming from. For mixing purposes, I differentiate the kick from the bass in this way: the kick has one low fundamental that is it's strongest, while each new note the bass plays (unless it's a chord or an interval) should be it's fundamental. When the bass shares the fundamental of the kick, I dip out usually -5dB of that frequency in the bass.

Well, as if that wasn't already too much, that's all I want to type right now. Looking forward to other's replies. Hopefully more concise and to the point than mine... sheesh!
Old 14th November 2002
  #4
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by Charles:
What are the techniques you use to separate the various instruments in your mixes? Please explain in as much detail as you can.
I try to think about what each instrument wants to be.

Then I back-track, and think about what the song wants to be: The story.

So, each instrument has a role it needs to play, in such a way that it communicates with the other instruments. To get all the instruments playing off of each other as an ensemble: That's the interesting task.

The vocal is the main character, so that role needs to be defined from the start. Then, the instruments all want to play supporting roles in various ways to the vocal. They want to set the stage for the story the vocal is telling. They want to play out the arc of that story - the introduction; the beginning of the story, where the theme is established; the conflict, the climax...

I look for the conflict in the story, and find ways to get the instruments to enhance and illustrate the tension inherent in that conflict. Then, look for ways to create an ebb and flow of conflict and resolution.

I love contradictory elements in a mix for that reason: Putting things together that don't belong together, letting them clash, and then engineering a way for them to finally harmonize. This is a real challenge, but it has powerful results if it can be done right.

That's as much detailed an answer as I can think of right now.
Old 14th November 2002
  #5
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Charles Dye's Avatar
 

You guys impress the hell out of me. Look at the length of these posts. I'll post my responses after reading them. I just wanted to jump in and tell you this.

I knew this would be fun.

Thanks.
Old 14th November 2002
  #6
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Sidebar...

Great topic. In another thread, I was asking people about clarity in their mixes; good separation -- well-defined by Jax in his post -- seems to be the key to clarity.

It appears a lot of things affect separation -- reverb and other effects, panning, gain, compression, and most of all EQ.

Are there any good books out there about EQ theory, as well as the use of high and low pass filters? I really need to read one.

Jasper
Old 14th November 2002
  #7
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Also . . isn't that what an "arrangement" is for? Outside of just the form of the song. Arranging the right sounds, instruments.

Personally . . . eqing tracks to MAKE them work is not right in my mind. Pick the right parts, registers, instruments and mics to work so they have the proper 'space' seems to be the right way. You shouldn't have to seperate things technically. It should be organic. Though, of course, you have to do some tweaking as Jackson is talking about.

Sadly, I find that some people are MAKING things work that really don't know the craft and to me it doesn't work. They are losing space and clarity. It's funny, we all talk about these great drum sets, should it be mounted or on legs, vintage guitars and vintage amps, vintage mics and pres . . . . great sounds, and then some people jumble it all together to where it could be a great drum set or it could be a ****ty drum kit . . who would know? You know what I mean? You can't hear it anyway!

Of course not all do that and there is some GREAT work going on, but I am finding that a lot of the 'so called new guys' that were never around during the days of arrangers, charts, etc . . . . and the guys that were never around learing how to mic a piano, drum kit or horn section . . have no clue of space. Taking a cord out of a piano or drum module and trying to eq it into place is a different animal then micing one and understanding the space it organically takes and movement of air.

Also, I find many people, even great players . . simply don't know how to make records. GREAT players, but no clue on how to make a record. Some don't "listen" to the track and what is going on and what 'register' their instruments would sound best or not clash with others. Some just play for themselves.

Pianist playing in upper registers, where the high hat is living, or synths fighting with the bass, horns or vocals. Guitars . . covering up vocalists. Even vocalist that are always trying to sing in a key that may be too high for them that makes the track (other instruments) clash.

Also, another problem I find lately is these 'drop d' bands (and who isn't drop d these days . . . sheeesh! Is there no originality anymore?) that have no definition in the low end. AND I find that a lot of the new guitar amps, Mesa, VHT, etc cover such a wide spectrum that I am fighting to find a "space" in a track. As soon as you hit record and the guitarist hits the first chord . . the whole rhythm section goes away! All those great drum sounds we busted our asses getting are gone! LOL

Everything (sound) seems shoved together these days doesn't it? I REALLY miss the clarity of good arrangements and people choosing sounds, registers or instruments that have their own "space". I also feel that the "art" of arrangers is damn near gone as well as the art of young engineers that understand this, so you have a lot of things clashing around in the instrumental / musical spectrum. Just my opinion.
Old 14th November 2002
  #8
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Knox,
I agree with you completely. While I've been on the players side of the glass for longer than I care to admit, I am pretty green from the engineering aspect. That's what brings me to this great forum. At any rate, projects at every level can benefit from a healthy dose of pre-production. Find out who's really playing what, and as you said arrange the piece. My personal approach to anything I get invloved with is to listen to the lead vocal first and foremost. I build my part in a way to support the story teller, not step on the story. Most times I find that it's what I DON"T play that helps create the most impact. I think the key is constantly improving that all important skill called listening!! Love this place, thanks for letting me participate. TommyD
Old 14th November 2002
  #9
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Renie's Avatar
 

Trying to achieve separation, definition while gelling the mix is something I consider in these ways, being mindful of the way sounds work relative to oneanother:

1. The top to bottom of the mix -
Asking is the full frequency range up for grabs or not with the style of the music? Careful thought about what fits where, what kind of energy belongs where, using the McDSP F1, 2 and 3 for the basic filtering out of unnecessary sound and general EQ usage attenuating and boosting whatever works.

2. The width of the mix-
Considering panning elements creating space for sounds to have their niche in the spread.

3. Dimension of the mix-
Use of fx, reverb for depth, space, and diffusion or soft lighting, and distortion for accenting, spotlighting, spiking and foregrounding. Compression also which can do either job, and more.

4. The journey of the mix-
Keeping sounds evolving, changing over the timeline of the track, can enhance separation. This can be delays or subtle or radical changes to the sounds, general automation moves on plug-in's or different plug-in's.

5. The feel of the mix-
Can't explain this bit, which is why I love working with music. Intuition just leads everything. If it makes sense to 'tidy up' I'll try it and even if I know it 'makes sense' to do it, if it loses magic the tidying stops.
Old 14th November 2002
  #10
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Mike Jasper's Avatar
Quote:
Personally . . . eqing tracks to MAKE them work is not right in my mind. Pick the right parts, registers, instruments and mics to work so they have the proper 'space' seems to be the right way. You shouldn't have to seperate things technically. It should be organic.
I totally agree. And the book I'm looking for would have a lot to say about the above as well as eq. A book with sound file examples would be even better, if one exists. Hell, I'm trying to learn the craft. I took music theory in college (although I majored in English) and have arranged bands live, but recording is a different animal.

Jasper
Old 14th November 2002
  #11
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Because I mix mostly sequenced music the only "live" parts are Bass, Guitars, Vocals,and maybe some scratches or something. The great benefit of this is that I can do over dubs and only need two channels of conversion (Since the sequencer is in sync with protools I can rewind and record another pass and another and so on until the song is layed)
This allows me to utilize minimal outboard gear in a maximum way.
I usually track the Kick and snare about 4 times each. Once with no compression. ONce with a very fast attack, and once with a gate to just get the "snap" with maybe a dbx 160xt or distressor(before I was forced to sell my pair). and once more with just the mids in it and everything else filtered out.

I know this is a separation thread but I thought that might benefit someone who may not have thought about it. And it's vital to my mix approach. (I begin mixing from the time the song is layed. I can always re-cut a track that I don't like since it's all midi synced

With that said a mix has a three dimensional field. (This may be elementary to some but hopefully it will benefit others) Left/Right, Top/Bottom, Front/Back

Pans place you left/right
frequency's place you top/bottom
and Ffx/reverb and their relationship to dry signals place you front/back. What I mean is when I want something to stand out I leave it dry. When I want to send it to the back I place it in the verb

Before I begin I place AC1 on my master fader (thanks Charles) along with Ren Comp set to one of the master presets. (I actually cant think of which one it is because I renamed it MIx Bus. But I do know it's a very light compression setting and I don't take off much more than 1-2db's
and the ratio something like 1.5-2:1

I start with the Kicks/bass and Snares I do whatever eq/compression I need and at this point I set up my drum sub bus that I crush(with compressor bank) and add back into the drums. (with 4 versioins each of the kick/snr and a drum buss I have it. "sitting in the speaker" pretty well with the monitors at low volume (about television volume or elevator music volume)
At this point I ref with other mixes that have similiar elements to make sure the kick and snr's match up in level when they monitor levels between ptools and the ref CD's are the same
Then
I usually place filters (McDSP filterbank) on most of my other channels to make room for the Kick and bass. I adjust the filter until the sound of the source begins to start missing the lows and then I come back a bit and stop. I go through this with sounds soloed. When I listen to the entire mix I begin sculpting the filters to find precise frequencys that make each part fit but leave room for the others (I"m giving technique instead of frequency's because the freq's vary)

Then I start adjusting pan's also. I play with the panning and filters until I get everything fitting and I start bringing eq' s on primary tracks to adjust them to where I want them top to bottom. Hi's up LOws down. G's up Hoes down (forgive my rapper humor LOL)

rollz

I get the mix hitting the speakers right with out a touch of verb/ffx then I start thinking front/back and ffx.

At this point I do what may be counterintuitive to most but works for me. I place an EQ on the master fader. I brighten the 10-20k range to add sparkle. I get my high end matching my Ref CD's (you know similiar to it) Now this usually makes my drums/bass/vocals and other elements too bright but it gets hats/shakers/percussion just right.
So
from here I route all of my shakers/percussion and other elements that benefit from the Master EQ to a bus. Then I move the EQ plug to that bus from the master. At this point a take a break and rest my ears and snatch a sandwich or a piece of fruit(ONe of the only ways I make sure I dont have an entire day go by mixing and not eating until late at night).

Now I start thinking FFX and front to back. Which is where I struggle some in ptools My approach to verbs and depth is another thread but I will cut it short and say I use minimal verb only where really needed and I use a bunch of delays to fill spaces yet leave instruments present. I also play with chorusing/flanging on particular intruments to "thicken" the front to back perspective. I also place filters on my verb/ffx returns to get them where they need to be it seems I'm usually filtering about 16k on delays and 150-200Hz on verbs. Don't know why really I do what sounds good but it always seems to be Highs off delays and lows off reverbs
I blend plugins with my minimal ffx rack (desper spatializer retro, Roland DEP5 alesis Q2). If I need a flanger or chorus effect from the outboard world I usually record it to a stereo track.

from there I continue to tweak eq's and serve on a slightly toasted bun
Old 14th November 2002
  #12
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Ok so I Rennie posted while I was typing my response. I guess hearing the same thing twice won't hurt
Old 14th November 2002
  #13
Here for the gear
 

Wow, I agree with Charles, you guys have some great input, I'm gonna try some of these things. I see this same type of post in a lot of forums, and some of the responses are hystrical.

Anyway, we are not a "mix house" per say. We probably only mix 10-15 projects here annually. But when we do.......

Jax is right. it begins with tracking. If the guitar player layers three parts with he the same amp, guitar and settings, it's gonna be difficult to separate that later. And things like listening to cymbals, strings etc... to make sure the initial sound is great.

After editing, of course, we dry mix everything just beginning with volume and panning. Typically then we will add some delays to a few tracks. For rock music we typically have kick and bass right up the middle, lead vox stereo just outside the middle, toms and or background vox just outside that, various guitars, keys, cymbals, and sometimes more guitars. The panning position greatly depends on the song and instrumentation. All those can vary.

Next we add some verbs and various subtle effects.
We usually then walk away, and come back with fresh ears to add compression and eq.

We try to use both sparingly.
At the end, we listen again, after a break and add any wild effects or big changes that were not done in the editing that we think the song needs.

Anyway, that's our order and method. Notch filters, and side chains come in very handy to help separate instruments, but it's always better to get the sound your looking for up front. We do typically cut low-mids and lows on a lot of things to make room for the kick and bass though. The rule we try to use with eq is never more that 6db of adjustment unless for a special "effect". If we need more than that we try to re-track it.

There are also a variety of spatial plugs that can be used to separate sounds. An interesting one in the DLX-XL plug. The far left slider, I'm not sure what it's called, but the higher up you lift it, the higher the source sounds in the mix. The left and right faders widen or narrow the sound. This plug sometimes sounds good on acoustic guitars (especially picking tracks).
Old 14th November 2002
  #14
I am surprised no one has mentioned panning/Eqing in Mono.


A lot of the info has been covered already. I sometimes use Spatializers(see previous posts) to place sounds outside the spectrum. Also a great unit for this is the Roland RSS10.
Old 14th November 2002
  #15
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I'd have to say, the less I have to do in the mix, the better. I have been floored from time to time when I throw up the faders on a well arranged/recorded song, and it already sounds like a record. IMHO, the biggest influences on the mix are not mix related at all. Things that happen in front of the mic affect the biggest change. I love how a well arranged piece stays out of the singer's way.

That said, we all seem to use the same techniques to keep things from clashing with each other, and we all busy ourselves with the tiny details that most of the listening public can only percieve in the most abstract way. Right now, I'm kind of fascinated with the subtle "glue" of a mix: how the kick drum pokes the 2bus compressor; how the singer sticks to the front of the mix with the "air" staying behind them; etc. I'm still finding these ingredients harder to master in the digital domain, but I'm learning.
Old 14th November 2002
  #16
Re: Sidebar...

Quote:
Originally posted by Mike Jasper
Are there any good books out there about EQ theory, as well as the use of high and low pass filters? I really need to read one.

Jasper

The Mixing Engineers handbook by Bobby Owinsky?
(Mr. 5.1/surround).

You can get it at the Mix bookshelf.

Its probably the best book ever written on the subject. Its the text book I use to teach a mixing class here in NYC.
Old 14th November 2002
  #17
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally posted by juniorhifikit
I love how a well arranged piece stays out of the singer's way.

I totally agree. That is like listining to perfection. And it can be just subtle things that get a song to that place.
Old 14th November 2002
  #18
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I spend 90% of mix time in mono at low level... (Panning is way over-rated as a way to get separation! ) But then I spend 90% of the time on a project arranging the parts and trying to achieve instruments separation while recording the tracks. (Dynamic mics are my friends! heh )

Comes mix time though, I find eq'ing the mid freq. spectrum and using the right "color" of compression is critical to prevent cloudiness in a densely packed track. Most of the time, even -1db of eq (post comp) at a med-tight Q and at the right frequency on an instrument taking too much place can open the sound field a lot. Agressive filtering (I mean using a filter unit ala Filterbank, not an eq.) and/or (real or faked) reamping is often the best solution for me for a troublesome instrument that doesn't want to fit in the mix.

All of this is kinda common knowledge and the effective use of this knowledge is tied more to the way that you listen to the instruments/mix than anything else... (I guess that's why ear formation is such an important part of a good music program's curriculum. yuktyy ) We can talk all we want about it but there is nothing that beats seating down with somebody who knows what he's doing and hearing what he's actually doing...
Old 14th November 2002
  #19
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Something else . . . . NOT using DIGITAL reverbs, but natural reverbs and tape delays. It is no secret that I am no fan of anything digital . . . but one thing I really find, to me, is how digital reverbs never seem to fall "inside" a track.

They always seem like a white wash of sorts all over the track or on top of, even short verbs. In my opinion, room mics, chambers and plates all seem more natural sounding and the depth is much greater. The front to back depth is much more "3D" . . . . allowing better space and placement of instruments.

I love it when you have great players that know how to make a record, playing real instruments in a great room, playing a great arrangement of a really good song. It makes me look like I know what I am doing.
Old 14th November 2002
  #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Knox
It makes me look like I know what I am doing.
Yes, you gotta love those "I think I'm a genius" kinda days! BTW I agree with the use of "real" ambiance as much as possible, I try to build this in the track as I record the parts.
Old 14th November 2002
  #21
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I need more of them! LOL!
Old 15th November 2002
  #22
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BevvyB's Avatar
 

Well, I know that GM has finally graced the GS forums, but if you want to hear people arranging, engineering and mixing in tandem, as always it's back to 'I AM' from Earth, Wind and Fire. Mixing? How COULDN'T you mix it.
GM couldn't have done what he did without the music giving him the scope.
Flawless and incredible final-production vision from musicians, and not just Maurice White. People who knew their part inthe scheme.
Blimey
Bev (awaiting repercussions)
Old 15th November 2002
  #23
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by Knox:
Also . . isn't that what an "arrangement" is for? Outside of just the form of the song. Arranging the right sounds, instruments...

...I also feel that the "art" of arrangers is damn near gone as well as the art of young engineers that understand this, so you have a lot of things clashing around in the instrumental / musical spectrum.
This was a great post, and I totally agree with Knox on most of that.

I think the works of Claus Ogerman should be studied by anyone who feels they have opportunities in that regard, especially his recordings with Antonio Carlos Jobim on "Wave," and their recordings with Frank Sinatra. Ogerman's arrangements were masterpieces in the way they were incredibly lush, and yet breathed so openly at the same time. Even though my music is like night & day from that stuff, I still A/B my recordings with Ogerman's sometimes to see how close I can get to "that sound."

How does one describe it? There is space around each instrumental element. The range of audible frequencies is covered, but not completely filled, at least not all the time. Dynamics are created by artfully adding and subtracting elements, all working in coordination with the "arc" of the song.

The best modern-day equivelent I can think of off the top of my head is Bjørk. Her mixes are classic...and she uses PT. Even her weirdest stuff is divinely arranged and orchestrated.

Ryuichi Sakamoto is another. Sakamoto is a samurai master of orchestration and arrangement. His soundtrack for "The Last Emperor" is epic, immortal, the closest to a living Debussey we seem to have.

Great thread!
Old 15th November 2002
  #24
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by Renie:
Trying to achieve separation, definition while gelling the mix is something I consider in these ways, being mindful of the way sounds work relative to oneanother:

1. The top to bottom of the mix -
Asking is the full frequency range up for grabs or not with the style of the music? Careful thought about what fits where, what kind of energy belongs where, using the McDSP F1, 2 and 3 for the basic filtering out of unnecessary sound and general EQ usage attenuating and boosting whatever works.

2. The width of the mix-
Considering panning elements creating space for sounds to have their niche in the spread.

3. Dimension of the mix-
Use of fx, reverb for depth, space, and diffusion or soft lighting, and distortion for accenting, spotlighting, spiking and foregrounding. Compression also which can do either job, and more.

4. The journey of the mix-
Keeping sounds evolving, changing over the timeline of the track, can enhance separation. This can be delays or subtle or radical changes to the sounds, general automation moves on plug-in's or different plug-in's.

5. The feel of the mix-
Can't explain this bit, which is why I love working with music. Intuition just leads everything. If it makes sense to 'tidy up' I'll try it and even if I know it 'makes sense' to do it, if it loses magic the tidying stops.


__________________
Renie Coffey | riverattic
Renie,

I hope you don't mind, but I've printed that post and taped it to my studio board next to Charles' list.

Point #3's analogy to film got me where I live. Beautiful! I never thought of looking at reverb as lighting technique. I'm gonna go back through my mixes now, looking at the reverb settings while meditating on that concept.

Yo, that's ill!

I am LUVING this forum!!!

Jules, the next time you're on the East Coast, dinner's on me.
Old 15th November 2002
  #25
Jax
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Yes, the concept of reverb being used as "sof lighting" or "spotlighting" is an idea I'd like to think about where I use reverb. Nicely put, Renie.
Old 15th November 2002
  #26
Jax
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separation in mono

thrillfactor and groundcontrol,

You both mention mixing in mono, a technique I am not that familiar with. I usually check my mix in mono when I reach certain places, like when I first get my volume and panning balances, and then again when the mix is almost done. I don't spend much time in mono land, though. Please elaborate on why you stay in mono most of the time while mixing.

I was a little thrown and a lot intrigued by this statement:

"I spend 90% of mix time in mono at low level... (Panning is way over-rated as a way to get separation! ) But then I spend 90% of the time on a project arranging the parts and trying to achieve instruments separation while recording the tracks."
Old 15th November 2002
  #27
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groundcontrol's Avatar
 

I can only talk for myself but I've always had trouble identifying problems related to instruments balance/eq/reverb level/etc while listening in stereo. It's as if my ears get distracted or overwhelmed by the size of the image and the spread of the instruments across the image. (Also, if the control room is not ideal, the (often not very well controlled) early reflections of the room and the frequency coupling anomalies between the speakers and the room always seem to be worst when outputing sound from both speakers...)

When I listen in mono (one speaker only), I hear the true balance between the instruments, and can pinpoint right away which frequencies are clashing together. This way it's way easier to treat each problem for what it is. (i.e.: not trying to cure by a level change what is a frequency clash problem and vice versa.) As the frequencies pile up as I add each instrument, I carve out what's not wanted or add some lo-mid punch/hi-mid presence where it's needed. Also, adjusting the wet/dry ratio for the fx returns seems easier. If you ear the fx clearly, it's gonna be REAL wet in stereo. (Of course, sometimes it's what you're after.) Phase issues also become obvious. When you're adding the drum channels, you hear right away the tone thinning if there's a coherence problem between the mics.

Listening at low levels also helps to highlight the low to high balance of the mix because a little too much or too little becomes more obvious to the ear. (i.e.; the Fletcher-Munson curve.)

Of course I pan coarsely the tracks where I know I'll want them as I bring them up. Going back and forth to stereo. Once I get my mix grooving in mono, I'll rarely be disappointed when I switch to the mains. Of course you have to check how's the mix doing when played LOUD! But it's dangerous to stay too long at high levels because everything might seem to sound good and your ears tire and become insensitive. So I'll do quick checks and return to my reference level.

At this point I'm usually in fine tuning mode so I'll fiddle with the pan, etc to finish my picture. I still go back and forth between mono and stereo until I dump the mix.

Since I record most of what I mix, I'll hopefully already have good separation between the instruments because of the instruments choice and the range they've been orchestrated in. Also in the way I use many different mics (a lot of dynamics) and pre/comp combinations while recording them.

Hope that make sense to you...
Old 15th November 2002
  #28
Gear Head
 
John Sayers's Avatar
 

Great thread guys. I can only add that I try to place each instrument in it's own room/space. A little flange here a short delay there.

Also I like to check the balance outside the control room maybe whilst having a coffee. I'll wind it up on the mains and then sit outside and listen to it. It's a quick, easy way of checking balance.

cheers
JOhn
Old 16th November 2002
  #29
Lives for gear
 
groundcontrol's Avatar
 

Yes, I love the "listen from the hallway" stage. (It means I'm close to finishing!) Often when the band and label people come to hear the mix-in-progress nearing completion they want to hear it slamming loud, that's when I make my coffee & pee break and listen to it from the hallway or the lounge. There's a pretty well-known studio north of town that doesn't have the best control room I've been in. The few times I've mixed in there, the only place where I could figure out what was really happening wih my mix was in the lounge by the coffee machine, with the CR door CLOSED!
Old 16th November 2002
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
posted by groundcontrol:
Yes, I love the "listen from the hallway" stage.
Me too.

I'll typically burn a CD of the latest versions of my mixes, put the CD on, and then go into my bedroom to tidy up, organize the laundry, etc. and listen from there. It's amazing what you hear from a distance like that, the things you didn't notice when glued to the monitors.

As for the mono thing...

I dunno, man. I'm afraid to hear my mixes in mono. I check it once in awhile when I'm doubling things to make sure it's not too awful...but I mix for stereo. I live for stereo effects that rub your head like a massage.

I prefer to pretend mono doesn't exist. Mono? What's that??
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