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Approach to Creating a Balanced Mix Multi-Ef­fects Plugins
Old 31st December 2010
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Approach to Creating a Balanced Mix

I'm going to give you guys a little insight to how I create a Balanced Mix.

Starting Your Mix

The first thing that I do when mixing is set the levels, and pan. I find this important to do before using e.q. compression, or anything else because this will let the frequencies build up and expose any problems of clashing frequencies you may run into.

So I start with the vocals muted and work completely on the instruments (you can come back and adjust if needed, later). I start my mixes with all my faders down and will bring my kick up first and let that peak the master buss at about -10. Then I bring in the rest of the drums.

Now, I bring in reverb and delays. I like to set my reverb to tempo. Read this
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/rap-h...echniques.html for instructions on how to do this.


Bringing in the Bass

I find that in a lot of amateur mixes, this can be one of the biggest problems.

I like to bring in the bass after my drums are mixed. Getting a good kick to bass relationship can be difficult, but trust your instincts. Don't "cut" to make room for the kick, that will only create problems with achieving a balanced mix. Now, with that said, if you have an 808 kick, and a bass, you might want to side-chain a compressor to open room up for the Kick when it hits. You want to be able to hear the kick when that bass is going.


Instruments

Now, I bring in pianos, guitars, leads, synths, strings, and all other instruments slowly. I bring them up, I try to find the sweet spot so everything sits just right. Sending them to the reverb return, and constant level adjustments will get them to set in. Sometimes you will need to ride faders. You want the mix to have an exciting points, you want it to build up. A couple dB's higher in the hook possibly when all your instruments are playing. This is important so things aren't all monotonous. This is equally as important as the arrangement. You have to keep the listener interested.

Bringing in the vocals.

Now that we've got the instruments all mixed, it's time to bring in the vocals. First thing I do is bring in the lead vocals. I find the spot where I like them and automate the levels so they sit ontop of the mix. So say the vocalist goes to low on a part and you can't hear them, just bring it up for that part. Or maybe there is just more instruments playing and they are building up to go into the hook, just ride the fader so that the vocals maintain the same relation that they had with the mix when there wasn't so much playing at once.

After all my lead vocals are done, I bring in adlibs, harmonies, background vocals.

You don't want your adlibs to over power your lead take, and you want background vocals to sound like... background vocals. Usually, more reverb on the background vocals so that they are farther back in the mix.

I send all the vocals over to a stereo buss and compress them slightly (this will give them a cohesive sound:"glue"). People often misuse and misunderstand compression. Instead of looking at compression as "leveling out the sound and trimming peaks", you should look at it more as a tool to shape the sound.
Here is a great guide to using compression Understanding Dynamic Processors (Compression) - Future Producers

E.Q.

There is corrective e.q. and creative e.q. So far in this mix, we haven't used e.q. Now, the reason for this is because it can create frequency balance problems. So, we have all of our levels set pretty well. There may still be a few kinks, but that may be caused by frequencies all building up in a certain area. Lows and mids are a problematic area for this. Listen to the mix, figure out where what frequencies are clashing, then find the instrument, and cut those clashing/annoying frequency build ups. You might want to set a HPF on the bass and/or kick from 40hz down so the low end isn't muddy.

That is corrective e.q.

Creative e.q. would be more like the "telephone effect" where you cut out from 800hz down, and 2khz up and boost in between.

Or maybe you want to muffle a sound, set a LPF and cut out all those high frequencies.

Maybe you want that "Drake Effect" where the music gets muffle, and the vocals have the telephone effect.

Just set your e.q. to muffle the instruments, and set the e.q on the vocals to the "telephone effect" and automate those plug-ins with a "Master bypass" so they only turn on for certain parts.

E.Q. can also make vocals cut through the mix. This thread Understanding EQ/Everthing in its own space - Future Producers is a good place to start learning e.q.

-Over Dose
Old 31st December 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 

If that works for you, cool. It wouldn't for me.

First you have to know where you are trying to go with the mix before you even start. Always think in 3 Dimensions: Left-Right, Top-Bottom, and Front-Back.

Your use of reverbs, delays, eq cuts/filters, panning, volume will help you achieve the 3 Dimensions.

My order of working:

1. Drums (kik & snr)
2. Vocals
3. Fit instruments then percussion around the Vocals. Properly Pan & Cut/Filter the frequencies on the instruments/perc to make them fit around your vocals.


Compression levels, Exact EQ Frequency cuts/boosts, and spacial/modulation fx settings are project dependent.
Old 31st December 2010
  #3
I dont think that would create a well balanced mix. Maybe for a song that needs that stuff you listed, but a well balanced mix needs more than following someones manifest and opinion on how to create a well balanced mix.
Popular has it right, by saying 3D. Think of your mix, like a blank canvas that has depth.
Cj
Old 31st December 2010
  #4
Gear Nut
 

I wrote this in about 20 minutes. I rushed through it so yeah... I didn't get completely in depth. But yeah, I do agree with thinking of it like a 3d canvas, I'm not gonna sit here and write an entire book, I'm just trying to give people who have trouble with mixing a decent starting point. Please add more. I actually think it would be cool for a lot of us experienced engineers to make a thread with in-depth explanations and methods of how to mix.
Old 31st December 2010
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Nahuel's Avatar
 

can we hear the result?
Old 31st December 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
can we hear the result?
LOL... yeah, every post with advice should be accompanied by a link to the advisor's work, or a link should be in their sig.

That said, I don't really see any problem with a general procedural-order thing to mixing. I generally follow a similar process from mix to mix... at least generally. Provided it doesn't prevent you from going on the beaten path and ignoreing it when necessary or otherwise get in your way of making the proper evaluations.

I usually start with the music basic level and pan, popping the lead vocal in and out as I go for reference. Then I do the same with the vocals. Then I generally mute the vocals and start doing general EQ/compression/etc. of the music tracks, popping the lead vox on and off as I go. I just feel like I need a solid music bed in order to have a good perspective of the lead vocal. I don't really have much of an order.... kick/snare first, bass last, and everything else inbetween. Then I zero in on the lead vocal and get it sounding finished (other than vocal rides), or as close to finished as I can. I'll spend a lot of time on this, not just because it's the most important instrument in a song, but because it will serve as the basis around which all other vocals will be assembled. After the lead vocal is dialed in, I go through the rest of the vocals section by section, usually starting with the hook next.

By this point I have a pretty solid mix so I go through and do the fine tuning. Then all the fader rides. Then more fine tuning. Then I print it, walk away, and come back to it. I make a list of things I want to change on a piece of paper and then systematically make those changes. When I'm pretty happy with the mix it goes to the client for approval. Usually they are happy with it. If not, then I make whatever changes they want and send them a new mix for approval. Once the mix is approved I run all the other passes (instrumental, tv, a cappella, etc.), assemble and label the mix masters, get a box, print a shipping label, stick it in the mail.

Oh yeah, and there's the collecting money part in there somewhere too
Old 31st December 2010
  #7
Gear Head
 
Masterginxx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
LOL... yeah, every post with advice should be accompanied by a link to the advisor's work, or a link should be in their sig.

That said, I don't really see any problem with a general procedural-order thing to mixing. I generally follow a similar process from mix to mix... at least generally. Provided it doesn't prevent you from going on the beaten path and ignoreing it when necessary or otherwise get in your way of making the proper evaluations.

I usually start with the music basic level and pan, popping the lead vocal in and out as I go for reference. Then I do the same with the vocals. Then I generally mute the vocals and start doing general EQ/compression/etc. of the music tracks, popping the lead vox on and off as I go. I just feel like I need a solid music bed in order to have a good perspective of the lead vocal. I don't really have much of an order.... kick/snare first, bass last, and everything else inbetween. Then I zero in on the lead vocal and get it sounding finished (other than vocal rides), or as close to finished as I can. I'll spend a lot of time on this, not just because it's the most important instrument in a song, but because it will serve as the basis around which all other vocals will be assembled. After the lead vocal is dialed in, I go through the rest of the vocals section by section, usually starting with the hook next.

By this point I have a pretty solid mix so I go through and do the fine tuning. Then all the fader rides. Then more fine tuning. Then I print it, walk away, and come back to it. I make a list of things I want to change on a piece of paper and then systematically make those changes. When I'm pretty happy with the mix it goes to the client for approval. Usually they are happy with it. If not, then I make whatever changes they want and send them a new mix for approval. Once the mix is approved I run all the other passes (instrumental, tv, a cappella, etc.), assemble and label the mix masters, get a box, print a shipping label, stick it in the mail.

Oh yeah, and there's the collecting money part in there somewhere too

Hey Chris. Quick question. What do you generally include in the tv track (ex hook, bgv's, ad libs) ? And... Does it change from client to client? Thanks in advance
Old 31st December 2010
  #8
Approach to Creating a Balanced Mix

Not chris, but I ask client. But when someone is mixing for me, I request the TV to be just the music and the hook. No intros / outros or any type of verse parts.
Old 31st December 2010
  #9
Gear Guru
 
rickrock305's Avatar
 

Approach to Creating a Balanced Mix

Yea, best to ask the client on that. Different people want different things.
Old 31st December 2010
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterginxx View Post
Hey Chris. Quick question. What do you generally include in the tv track (ex hook, bgv's, ad libs) ? And... Does it change from client to client? Thanks in advance
I take out anything they will be doing live as a solo act unless otherwise instructed. And if the song has a fade-out, I will make an actual ending.

EDIT: let me clarify the "solo" thing. If it's a full band, then as a "solo" act. If it's a solo artist, then as a "solo" act. If it's a vocal group, then based on their voicing. If it's a full band that also uses a lot of MPC/keyboard/programming stuff, then I will often also make a click track mix - count and click left with anything they want on the right (for clarity sake, this is not called a TV track).
Old 31st December 2010
  #11
Approach to Creating a Balanced Mix

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter
it's a full band that also uses a lot of MPC/keyboard/programming stuff, then I will often also make a click track mix - count and click left with anything they want on the right (for clarity sake, this is not called a TV track).
We played like that for a long time!!! Used a mini disk as the player, less likelyhood of skips. Guess these days id use an instant replay or go multitrack. Just keys and gtr fluff and click fed to drummers inear monitor.
Old 1st January 2011
  #12
Gear Head
 
Masterginxx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LeoLeoLeo View Post
Not chris, but I ask client. But when someone is mixing for me, I request the TV to be just the music and the hook. No intros / outros or any type of verse parts.
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickrock305 View Post
Yea, best to ask the client on that. Different people want different things.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
I take out anything they will be doing live as a solo act unless otherwise instructed. And if the song has a fade-out, I will make an actual ending.

EDIT: let me clarify the "solo" thing. If it's a full band, then as a "solo" act. If it's a solo artist, then as a "solo" act. If it's a vocal group, then based on their voicing. If it's a full band that also uses a lot of MPC/keyboard/programming stuff, then I will often also make a click track mix - count and click left with anything they want on the right (for clarity sake, this is not called a TV track).

Thanks for your input guys...
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