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Sorry....mixing thread...How do you find the balance between too stale/too live
Old 22nd October 2010
  #1
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Sorry....mixing thread...How do you find the balance between too stale/too live

I have been making beats for about 8 years. I am pretty happy with my mixes on my beats (you can check my link but I haven't put anything new up in about a year for various reasons, about the same but better). When mixing beats, I am so used to having a full spectrum of sound that it gets hard for me to really "get" mixing vocals. I know how it is supposed to sound, I just can't get close to where I am at when mixing beats.

My major problem is my mixes are stale. They seem a bit flat, a little muddy, and just not up to date. Compare an album from the same artist from 1995 to something that just came out, mine sounds 1995. Mixes are now so clean and bright, I find if I try to do that, it sounds harsh. I don't have a great chain, NT1a mic, M-Audio 2626 for pre's and conversions, PT for mixing (not a lot of other plug ins). I have a 'semi' treated room and my speakers are Dynaudio BM5a's. Not the best but I can easily hear how good a great mix sounds, I just can't get to the point myself.

That said, I can post examples up if needed, I really want some good reading material more than anything. I feel that most of what I read is similar to a cook book, if everything is the same, it comes out fine. But, nobody has the same voice, beats are never the same, so I want to learn (not expected to be told) how to really go further with this.

I am not looking for a direct answer, again, I can post up some clips, I just want the best reading material (print or internet) along with some personal advice for someone who gets the concept but doesn't really "get it", meaning I haven't been able get the results I want, only in the ball park.

Edit-Posted audio clips in post 14 - https://www.gearslutz.com/board/5928885-post14.html
Old 23rd October 2010
  #2
g22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by talontsiawd View Post
I have been making beats for about 8 years. I am pretty happy with my mixes on my beats (you can check my link but I haven't put anything new up in about a year for various reasons, about the same but better). When mixing beats, I am so used to having a full spectrum of sound that it gets hard for me to really "get" mixing vocals. I know how it is supposed to sound, I just can't get close to where I am at when mixing beats.

My major problem is my mixes are stale. They seem a bit flat, a little muddy, and just not up to date. Compare an album from the same artist from 1995 to something that just came out, mine sounds 1995. Mixes are now so clean and bright, I find if I try to do that, it sounds harsh. I don't have a great chain, NT1a mic, M-Audio 2626 for pre's and conversions, PT for mixing (not a lot of other plug ins). I have a 'semi' treated room and my speakers are Dynaudio BM5a's. Not the best but I can easily hear how good a great mix sounds, I just can't get to the point myself.

That said, I can post examples up if needed, I really want some good reading material more than anything. I feel that most of what I read is similar to a cook book, if everything is the same, it comes out fine. But, nobody has the same voice, beats are never the same, so I want to learn (not expected to be told) how to really go further with this.

I am not looking for a direct answer, again, I can post up some clips, I just want the best reading material (print or internet) along with some personal advice for someone who gets the concept but doesn't really "get it", meaning I haven't been able get the results I want, only in the ball park.
I'm not saying you shouldn't look to improve, but I personally think mixes sounded better in '95 than today, so sounding dated is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to music, imo, as most of the best hip hop was made in the mid-90's. So if thats the sound your getting, thats a good thing, for my taste at least. I get what you saying though that to get on the radio/sell beats today you got to probably sound like the music of today. What are some examples of songs/albums of today that your trying to get the sound of?
Old 23rd October 2010
  #3
g22
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Just checked your tracks on myspace and you got some dope beats. The mixes sounded good to me, but thats just my opinion. There's always room for everyone to improve, so maybe someone else on here can give you the advice your looking for, good luck. peace
Old 24th October 2010
  #4
zzz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by talontsiawd View Post
I have been making beats for about 8 years. I am pretty happy with my mixes on my beats (you can check my link but I haven't put anything new up in about a year for various reasons, about the same but better). When mixing beats, I am so used to having a full spectrum of sound that it gets hard for me to really "get" mixing vocals. I know how it is supposed to sound, I just can't get close to where I am at when mixing beats.

My major problem is my mixes are stale. They seem a bit flat, a little muddy, and just not up to date. Compare an album from the same artist from 1995 to something that just came out, mine sounds 1995. Mixes are now so clean and bright, I find if I try to do that, it sounds harsh. I don't have a great chain, NT1a mic, M-Audio 2626 for pre's and conversions, PT for mixing (not a lot of other plug ins). I have a 'semi' treated room and my speakers are Dynaudio BM5a's. Not the best but I can easily hear how good a great mix sounds, I just can't get to the point myself.

That said, I can post examples up if needed, I really want some good reading material more than anything. I feel that most of what I read is similar to a cook book, if everything is the same, it comes out fine. But, nobody has the same voice, beats are never the same, so I want to learn (not expected to be told) how to really go further with this.

I am not looking for a direct answer, again, I can post up some clips, I just want the best reading material (print or internet) along with some personal advice for someone who gets the concept but doesn't really "get it", meaning I haven't been able get the results I want, only in the ball park.
becarefull.man,,
what is the ploblem ?
Old 25th October 2010
  #5
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if your vocals sound harsh in the top end when eq'ing, honestly i'd say it's the mic. cheap chinese condensers tend to have a really nasty high end that becomes even more apparent if you're boosting it. i think oktavamod modifies the nt1a now, you might look into that as it very well might give you a smoother top end that you can actually eq without it sounding like sandpaper.
Old 25th October 2010
  #6
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Your stuff will never sound as good to you as other peoples' does. It's just a fact of life.

"Another day" sounds dope man. Keep it up, you'll be fine.

Look up the 10,000 hour theory by Malcolm Gladwell. After you've hit that milestone, come back.
Old 25th October 2010
  #7
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I did not mix "Anotha Day" however, that was on someone's album, I don't know who mixed it off the top of my head but I don't particularly like that mix either lol.

Let me clarify a bit. When I say my mixes sound like "1995", what I mean is that it all the sounds kind of overlap and mesh well, but, nothing sounds clean or stands out. On newer stuff, you hear much more clarity, both in the vocals and the beat, where every element stands out on it's own, but doesn't necessarily sound as "full". I hope that clarifies things.


Today I took a bunch of time to listen to other music on my computer where I like the mixes. I noticed first that I need to bring my snare out quite a bit. I am also mixing like I would mix a beat, focusing on the body on texture, more than looking at it as a bunch of peices that need to pop out. Basically, I need to take the elements I have and let some thing "poke" out a bit more.

Most importantly, I need to learn to "unmix" my beat. I track everything out and any effects I bypass, I tend to put them right back in. I know how I want my beat to sound and tend to unconsciously mix the beat to how I want the beat to sound, not how the song should sound.

I think my best solution for getting better more quickly is referencing other tracks every day until I really feel like I am going to get it.

One question for the mixing engineers....I can get a song or two mixed for free or next to nothing by some good mixing engineers. Would it be a good idea to have that done, then have a reference to the same track I am working on (and the same producer and rapper for other songs)? Or will that create bad habits. I know that with making beats, the more I tried to imitate someone, the more bad habits I picked up. I don't want to do that obviously, but I think in this case, it would help.
Old 25th October 2010
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atma View Post
if your vocals sound harsh in the top end when eq'ing, honestly i'd say it's the mic. cheap chinese condensers tend to have a really nasty high end that becomes even more apparent if you're boosting it. i think oktavamod modifies the nt1a now, you might look into that as it very well might give you a smoother top end that you can actually eq without it sounding like sandpaper.
I have been looking into this very seriously. Unfortunately, I am a victim of the economy like most. I know it's affordable but I have the cost a full album on my hands so if I can get through without it, I can skip it for now.

I know that sounds backwards but this is a Bay Area album so my mixing doesn't have to be up to par with the best. Outside of the top sellers in the bay, most albums sound like a high end home studio at best, even if it is the real studio, real mixing engineers, etc. Not saying everything sucks out here, may artists sound quality but enough don't so I can be in the middle ground and not worry. Sound quality isn't the Bay's forte, especially in the last few years.
Old 25th October 2010
  #9
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I hate modern mixes. Why? there are plenty of people who do that sound way better than me and that is their job.

I think if you mix your own stuff just give it some character and have a realistic goal. For example, a lot of people here reference tracks worked on by 3 engineers and recorded in an expensive room while they are in their home and and doing everything themselves.

Go back a few years to the 90s and use those tracks as your reference. Tracks were less compressed and many times less busy. Personally, I listen to a guy named DJ Magic Mike to check my 808s and balances..vocals..etc. I know he made his record down the street from me and his songs were hits here. I don't know how huge he was nationally, but he got a lot of radio play and his songs hit hard on the club PAs. His tracks are also pretty sparse so it is easy to hear how the snare/clap was EQd for example.

For me, that is fine. People who DIY their music sometimes obsess a lot over the mix and it can destroy the creative vibe.

I know you said your mix sounds like mid 90s stuff, but personally, I think you should be proud of that.
Old 25th October 2010
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
I know you said your mix sounds like mid 90s stuff, but personally, I think you should be proud of that.
I would like to clarify a bit on this. I am talking about 90's underground to underground today. I am not talking about pop mixes and I don't want this album to sound like what is on the radio AT ALL. I really want the album to have that 90's character, just a bit cleaner, a bit more modern.

Secondly, again, I am not happy with my mixes either. If I was happy with them and just trying to sound "updated", that would be a different story. I am sure if I get to the point where I feel my mixes are at the level I want them to be, they will sound much more 90's than 2010. I love that era, the feel, and that vibe. I don't like muddy sound, I don't like how when you compare a rapper now to back then, it sounds like someone put a blanket over the mic.

One album from the 90's that I feel is mixed damn near perfectly is Mobb Deep's "Hell on Earth". It has all the good of the 90's without the bad. That's kind of what I am going for, or striving for.
Old 25th October 2010
  #11
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Yeah, I hear you about more underground stuff, I didn't mean to say that you should copy radio hits from the 90s, but what I meant was that hits have been made with just real nice and balanced mixes that didn't reek of polish and major label budget when you hear them.

I think you should study the arrangements on any mixes you don't like and make sure that every sound has it's place and is not just adding mud or noise.

For example, a sparser beat can sound perfect once the vocals are on top of it. So you can start your stuff with the bare parts that MUST be in the beat and mix those..then bring in the extras and see how clean you can keep it once those faders have been brought in.

A simple trick you may use already is a having a saturated buss. Where you buss in snare, kick and vox a little bit. Basically you have a saturator in there with an EQ. Have 8k boosted by 5db or so and a high pass that is cutting most of the lows. Then carve out 2.5k (whereever your vocals are) about completely. You just send your main kick snare and vox tracks to it and it will add a lot or presence depending on how you set it up. It may add some of that upper register sound that you are missing..you want it to not be harsh though.
Old 25th October 2010
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post

I think you should study the arrangements on any mixes you don't like and make sure that every sound has it's place and is not just adding mud or noise.

For example, a sparser beat can sound perfect once the vocals are on top of it. So you can start your stuff with the bare parts that MUST be in the beat and mix those..then bring in the extras and see how clean you can keep it once those faders have been brought in.
I think that's the big ticket right there bud! I do about 60/40 hip hop and rock stuff. Its amazing sometimes when you take out an element that was introduced at the beginning of the song, and then bring it back in later. When its muted, it makes other parts shine so much. Ex... Heavy Guitars & Old Green Day. They pull them out, and its just bass and drums and vocals. it makes those parts sound so much bigger, and then when the guitars come in. WHAM! It hits you with even more hugenesss. Es specially compared to having the same drone all the way thru.

I'd strip it down to the basics. Drums, bass. Use some of the parts that you had going thru out only on the hooks. see how that feels.
Old 26th October 2010
  #13
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My final listen to a mix (after all the technical stuff is done), I close my eyes, and just sit there, and listen to the mix on an EMOTIONAL level, not a technical one... Does the song progress from one section well to the next, transitions good etc..

Here's some tricks to get more "life" in your mix...

Compression... Yes I know it sounds crazy, because compression when done poorly makes stuff lifeless. Key is, don't compress a bad sound, It'll just make it worse. It's all in the attack and release of the compressor. Don't be afraid to hit it hard, but have a slow enough attack to allow room for the transient.

Master Fader Automation....
Yes Automate your verses down 1-2db and push the choruses up... adds real dynamics to the mix.

Distortion.... The good kind. Ads so much life to your mix when done tastefully! I love decimort, devastator, and the sound toys Decapitator!

Multi-band compression.... I usually use this for broad brush strokes to fix stuff that bothers me, or doesn't sit right in the mix... I'll compress the offending frequency with a fast attack, and pull down the volume of that frequency.... NEVER compress the extreme highs and lows with a multi-band compressor.

Effects... Hip hop is all about being subtle with effects. I use lots of reverbs, short delays, choruses, auto panners ect.... But blend them in SUPER subtle in the mix, and often times filter them to bring out the specific frequency in each that I want to bring out.

I know it's very general, but hey, each song is different.

1st thing for better vocals, upgrade the mic.... I HATE mixing harsh vocals, makes it tough to get it to fit right in the mix.

Good luck!
Old 26th October 2010
  #14
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I am going to put up two snippits and explain. Unfortunately this is not my best examples of my recordings, the mic wasn't where it was supposed to be (rapper moved it) and he was a bit sick. I do feel it is a good example of where I am at. Remember, I am not happy with these.
The first file I feel it is very flat sounding. It sounds relatively clean, all things considered, but lifeless and dull.

The second one, I try to add some life to it. I focus on individual things as I go through each track and do my best to make everything sound it's best, then go back and undo anything I feel is not fitting in right. To me, this still sounds on the flat side but more lively. It sounds a bit over compressed. It sounds a bit harsh to me.

Let me know if these clips help, audio terms are so general that it's hard for me to ask the right questions some time.
Attached Files

First.mp3 (1.33 MB, 157 views)

Second.mp3 (1.31 MB, 151 views)

Old 26th October 2010
  #15
Gear Addict
 

sounds like you could use a mic boom to better position the mic of the rapper. Sounds actually good but slightly boomy and it's very bright. May very well be the mic but eq will be your friend in this position. Also the instrumentation is getting buried from the vocal. I only have some experience in this so i may not be able to help as much as i like, especially if i'm not there beside you to see and hear what your doing. So hopefully people on GS can't narrow down and give a good advice to an already half way there good mix. Sounds really really close.
Old 26th October 2010
  #16
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I listened to clip #2 real fast. Vox are too loud and too dry. If you turn down the track you can barely hear the beat. If you can blend the vocals in better with fader and some FX, I think you will be good to go.

IMO, the vocal does not feel like part of the track yet, but you can fix that up pretty easy.
Old 27th October 2010
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
I listened to clip #2 real fast. Vox are too loud and too dry. If you turn down the track you can barely hear the beat. If you can blend the vocals in better with fader and some FX, I think you will be good to go.

IMO, the vocal does not feel like part of the track yet, but you can fix that up pretty easy.
I didn't reference that before I put it up and I can definitely hear it. One thing I am learning is that I listen to my own music too much on my speakers and start to "unlearn" them as when you hear your mistakes over and over again, it sounds normal. I will hopefully put up another one soon where the vocal level is better. Thanks for the advice.
Old 27th October 2010
  #18
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The rapper is not locking into the beat - doesn't matter what in the world you do - it will not sound right.

Clip #1 sounds better, #2 sounds seriously over eq'd - all the guts are gone and the highs are overblown.

Use the vocals from #1, and mix the beat around the vocals.
Old 27th October 2010
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
The rapper is not locking into the beat - doesn't matter what in the world you do - it will not sound right.
DITTO. He's not riding the beat WHATSOEVER. It's like he isn't even listening to the music, it's just playing for the benefit of him knowing it's playing...
Old 27th October 2010
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Storyville View Post
The rapper is not locking into the beat - doesn't matter what in the world you do - it will not sound right.

Clip #1 sounds better, #2 sounds seriously over eq'd - all the guts are gone and the highs are overblown.

Use the vocals from #1, and mix the beat around the vocals.
This is also a strong point. I did not want to get into the A/R level since this was a mix thread, but this guy is not doing the beat justice.
Old 2nd November 2010
  #21
zzz
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so, can you say more specific ? or done.
Old 2nd November 2010
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methlab View Post
This is also a strong point. I did not want to get into the A/R level since this was a mix thread, but this guy is not doing the beat justice.
Fortunately/Unfortunately this IS a mix issue. Because the performance is off - there will be no great "mix." Even with a perfectly balanced spectrum (whatever that means), hard hitting drums, a big image, lots of front to back depth - the vocals will NEVER blend in with the track. It's not just his rhythm, his tone is also totally off. Everything is off - it's like he recorded to a different beat, and then someone but a new track underneath the vocals that didn't match up.

The greatest mix in the world wouldn't work. Now, the greatest EDITING in the world MAYBE MAYBE will save this train wreck.
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