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Having lots of FX and not muddying up the mixdown
Old 18th October 2016
  #1
Gear Maniac
Having lots of FX and not muddying up the mixdown

Hi to both. Lovely output from both of you - Thanks. Its been an inspiration listening to your tracks.

I've been making music for some years but being struggled with finishing tracks because of never being satisfied with the sound I have. I watch the meters, read a lot and still the results are not satisfying. A lot of my music has usage of FX which become really hard to be heard as the track progresses. You both use a lot of FX too like in this both examples and i can perfectly hear the reverb, delay and every instrument without anything being muddied up. Do you use A LOT of post-processing on every channel - including the AUX (if you use your FX's on send/returns which I assume you do), or ? Does having a good quality mixer come in hand here that lets every channel has its own place in the mix or that's just wrong image in my head ? How do you make the mixdown breath with so many FX going on ? I'd love you give you an example of my track so you can get me clearer but I don't want to bother you.. If you can explain me the way you mixdown your tracks I would be more then happy, especially if you both have different techniques so I can try different things (although I think I've tried everything ).




Old 19th October 2016
  #2
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martyn3024's Avatar
 

Hey!
Thats actually quite a few questions in one i don't know whehter I use a lot of FX or post processing as I don't know what is the standard amount but I'd like to think both me and Steffi are actually quite "minimal" in that aspect. What's most important is that you have a great sound source to begin with, whether it's samples or hardware or soft synths, and then just make sure that you don't overcomplicate things with effects and make the mix down a nightmare. Personally, as soon as I see myself using a lot of effects I decide whether the part is good, and if so, I bounce it to audio so I can't tinker with it anymore. This keeps me from losing myself in details. The main player in a track is the instrument, not the effect that goes on it. If the instrument is not right, there's no effect that can save it, so I'd say just concentrate on writing the music first and then worry about the sound of it later.
As far as mix downs it really depends on each track but a couple short notes: 1- During the mix down process its easy to get carried away with details and you're listening to the same thing for hours.. I make sure that once every while I take the volume on the desk waaaaay down to "barely audible" and if I can still hear all the main elements of the track even at very low volume, I know that there is "balance" in the music. this is a good way of maintaining overview of what you're doing.. 2- And this is something I also learned from sitting in Steffi's studio and watching her work, to don't push everything to its limits. There's no need to over-compress or drive every single element of the track. To keep the dynamic and space in the mix its actually better to let things be what they are, and not make everything sound like its squeezed through an iPod speaker. 3- Visualize the mix in your head. What do you want to go where? For example the drums need to be in your face so they sit in the middle of the mix (sometimes toggle mono and stereo and see what happens), the bass sits below it all in mono, the pads need to wrap themselves around all of that and the sounds or effects can float around to create more depth to your song.. I use a spectral analyzer a lot to "see" what goes on in frequencies and stereo image. Using reference tracks from other people that you like is also a good idea.. and also listen to the music with your eyes closed, so you don't anticipate as much and let your ears be surprised by the good and bad things in your song.

Ok all this is a little bit off the cuff, if theres more specific things you want to know about let us know! Pretty sure Steffi also has some good markers!
Old 19th October 2016
  #3
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destefster's Avatar
 

hey!

i think its an issue that many people deal with when they make music. first of all the studio sound is of major importance. do you have a 'realistic' room or are there many disturbing reflections etc. for a proper mix down you need to be able to know your room.

a lot is a matter of the right mix down i think. its probably the hardest thing for me too. i learned to bring in all the elements one by one and when i feel i have a solid mix down i bring the volume of the control room/monitors al the way back and listen to it on an extreme low volume to be able to hear if my percussion is not too loud and if the balance is still there. i switch between headphones and monitors as well to get the best image.

about your FX question...i am not sure if you only use FX in post production phase or are you using hardware fx? see i use both. sometimes i like to use a hardware verb and to be able to adjust later in post production i record a dry signal and an FX signal into the computer so i am able to level the FX track and EQ as well. if i only use FX in postproduction i tend to use stuff like delays and verb as a send FX so at least all drums have the same 'groove'. using eq on your FX return channel also helps when for example your verb has too much mid/low and seems to mud up the mix. sometimes its also a matter of reducing the amount of send FX to be able to get more room. i also have the bad habit of using too much delay on drums and when i take it back a little i see that it instantly gives more air.

coming back to your issue of sounds being too muddy, i guess thats also a frequency issue no?

feel free to be more specific and i hope i can help a little
Old 20th October 2016
  #4
Gear Maniac
Hi again
Thank you for the input, lovely tips from both of you, I am really really thankful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by martyn3024 View Post
Personally, as soon as I see myself using a lot of effects I decide whether the part is good, and if so, I bounce it to audio so I can't tinker with it anymore. This keeps me from losing myself in details.
that's a nice one sir, really nice one. i'll try this as getting into details gets me stuck everytime.
Quote:
Originally Posted by destefster View Post
about your FX question...i am not sure if you only use FX in post production phase or are you using hardware fx? see i use both. sometimes i like to use a hardware verb and to be able to adjust later in post production i record a dry signal and an FX signal into the computer so i am able to level the FX track and EQ as well. if i only use FX in postproduction i tend to use stuff like delays and verb as a send FX so at least all drums have the same 'groove'. using eq on your FX return channel also helps when for example your verb has too much mid/low and seems to mud up the mix. sometimes its also a matter of reducing the amount of send FX to be able to get more room. i also have the bad habit of using too much delay on drums and when i take it back a little i see that it instantly gives more air.
Well im all ITB for now, which means samples & VSTs.. That said im using reverb as plugin on FX send and sometimes rarely I would use it as an insert to get a desired effect. Maybe my reverbs and delays are not that good, or I am missing some setting there? I also tend to cut off lows in the verb area to give more space.

The thing with the room you mentioned might be an issue. I might overuse FX's because of not hearing them well so they take up much space. Also my monitors are not trustworthy anymore (KRK 5") and I have to move on to something better and bigger - especially for a music with a lot of low end going on.
I might use a lot of parallel processing also. I'd like to use heavy distortions on a send channel and then mix that with the dry signal, or what I also use a lot is FET Compressor from Softube with the weird settings of ratios after 20:1 on a send channel mixed into the dry. I sometimes have 3-4 channels of parallel processing.. is that much ? - can that muddy up ?

I will provide short 1min sample to explain better - you don't have to listen it if you cant, I post it for a better refference to explain what I'm refferring to.
- This is about what I think of, I feel the whole track loosing a lot of power needed all because of the low end muddiness. Maybe I'm wrong and its not because of that, I don't know really.

Thank you again, to both of you ! I really like your tips and will try to use some of those in my next sessions - especially with the faders all down.
Cheers !

P.S. Guys if you're busy you don't have to answer this 2nd row of questions I have provided, nor click the link if you don't want to, you already have been of help with the tips
Attached Files

133dist.mp3 (2.70 MB, 725 views)

Old 24th October 2016
  #5
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destefster's Avatar
 

i think the main issue could really be your room, if you are already saying that you don't hear your FX's then my first thought is, what kind of room are you in? maybe have somebody check this for you of you are no pro in fixing this yourself. it can be done with cheap solutions. i have build my own traps and reflection panels in the past but as soon as i had a bit of a budget i asked somebody professional for advice and learned a lot from it. switch between a good natural headphone and you speakers, that helps.

i use parallel compression with LA2A and parallel distortion from and 60-ies EQ with overdrive option, just to give things a bit of character and as long as its subtile, it should be totally fine. but i have to say, i am no expert either and as i told you, a lot is just whatever works for a certain sound or track. not every track needs the same set up. sometimes an insert reverb might be to harsh and dissolve the original sound but sometimes its exactly right.

try mixing on low volume after you have done a mix on your monitors. you will hear what stands out too much and if you bring that volume back up its more in balance. more then anything, find out if its your room. check your mix down on different sound systems, at home, car radio. thats how i found out i had too much high frequency in my room for example. good luck
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