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Mixing in the box
Old 4th June 2008
  #1
Gear Head
 

Mixing in the box

I recently just started my first studio and am recording mainly rock bands with the occasional rapper here and there. My mixes are getting tighter but there just not to that professional level I know they can get to. Is there anything I can Study, Listen, or do to get out of this stump? Right now when im mixing say a rock song Ill grab a CD of a professional band with a quality recording that I like play it through my moniters in the control room and then mix after I hear a good reference. This is thing I really could find logical to help my mixes improve.
Old 4th June 2008
  #2
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Curve Dominant's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Addact4G View Post
Right now when im mixing say a rock song Ill grab a CD of a professional band with a quality recording that I like play it through my moniters in the control room and then mix after I hear a good reference.
When you listen to that reference CD, you're hearing the result of:
1) A top-shelf team of recording engineers working in a very good facility,
2) A top-shelf team of editors
3) An expert mix engineer
4) An expert mastering engineer
5) All working under the leadership of an experienced producer

Which means that you are trying to compete with a team of 8 or more seasoned professionals. I've been there, and I admire your spunk. But you've got to face reality. Maybe you can't do that all by yourself. Or maybe you can, who knows? I haven't heard your mixes. Sincerely, though, you need to face the odds, and deal with them accordingly, if you intend to attain the results you desire.

You need more Kung Fu. You can get it from outsourcing, or from more trial and error work and experimentation.

From having good audio to work with (mic placement, room dynamics, signal path, gain staging, etc.), to knowing what to do with it (panning, level placement, compression, spacial placement, EQ spectrum management, etc.), to mastering (making it sound loud without it sounding like a beer commercial), you've got quite a bit of work cut out for yourself. Those are some things you need to study and practice.

Post a mix, and perhaps we can point you to some particular things you especially need to work on.

Happy hunting,
-Eric @ Studio Curve Dominant
Old 4th June 2008
  #3
There's really no way to become better at mixing besides more mixing. As you continue to do mixes, your ears and techniques will (hopefully) develop to the point where your mixes can hang with the pro mixes you're using for reference. You just have to keep your ears open, learn as much as you can, and mix as much as you can. Hopefully each mix will improve 1% over the previous one, and eventually you'll get where you want to be.

I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who's totally satisfied with every mix they do. But I think that's the right attitude to have if you want to be great at what you do.

My two cents....
Old 4th June 2008
  #4
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peeder's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
There's really no way to become better at mixing besides more mixing.
I dunno, I think there are lots of great DVDs and books that help, gearslutz and other online sites can help. Certainly reference can help.

You certainly don't want to fall into that definition of insanity...where you do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

There is nothing wrong with mixing ITB, and you can stay ITB and outmix anyone if you really know what you're doing. People with large investments in analog fight this fact viciously.
Old 4th June 2008
  #5
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mixerguy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Addact4G View Post
I recently just started my first studio and am recording mainly rock bands with the occasional rapper here and there. My mixes are getting tighter but there just not to that professional level I know they can get to. Is there anything I can Study, Listen, or do to get out of this stump? Right now when im mixing say a rock song Ill grab a CD of a professional band with a quality recording that I like play it through my moniters in the control room and then mix after I hear a good reference. This is thing I really could find logical to help my mixes improve.
i'd suggest home recording bootcamp

ive heard good things about it.
Old 4th June 2008
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curve Dominant View Post
Which means that you are trying to compete with a team of 8 or more seasoned professionals. I've been there, and I admire your spunk. But you've got to face reality. Maybe you can't do that all by yourself. Or maybe you can, who knows?
It can be done. It just requires a ton of experience and time to get it right.

The whole ITB vs. OTB thing is irrelevant. I'll do ITB mixes on the PT HD3 system one day, and then mix on the SSL with outboard the next and both sound great.

You just need to put more time in. The faster you can get through making a million mistakes the better.... because every time you fail at recording you're one step closer to getting good.
Old 4th June 2008
  #7
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
I agree to all what they have written.
It needs time until you deliver constant good mixes.

I did a lot of training downloaded files at real world remix and made a good sounding arrangement from it and mixed it in the end. Also did my own music.

What I like about producing at home is you have time to create the arrangement.
Read books about mixing and you only will come to a satisfying level if you try experimenting and you never stop to be interested in reading technical reports as well as clever mixing tips which may also fit to your music.

Take care for good room treatment it makes creating a good mix much easier.
Read at gearslutz or Techbreakfast: A forum by music professionals for music professionals - Powered by vBulletin what experienced engineers say to your mixes. I love crtic because it brings me forward.

And what you should never forget a mix only is helpful if you have a good arranged song.
I had customers want to mix me a bad arrangement what was not keeping my interest alive. So a I wont mix it.

Take care for good recordings if I compare mine to the sound of real world remix studio I have a lot to learn.

Read The Mixing Engineers Handbook.

Stay with patience it takes a time after you have a good base.
And keep on lateral thinking while you are mixing.

You can do professional recordings from a home studio without having 8 people working.
What I do with bands I mostly try to give them a few things they can do by their self this helps me to make my part a little easier.
Old 4th June 2008
  #8
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vernier's Avatar
I mixed in the box for a few years and could never get it right.'
Old 4th June 2008
  #9
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Knox's Avatar
 

Personally . . . I find mixing in the box a less then satisfying experience (by far) sonically.
If I had to do that on a regular basis, I would get out of the business (after 30 something years). No front to back depth . . . the reverbs / compressors sound like crap . . no balls . . . on and on. I never can get things to sit right or sound right in the box. Especially for a rock band. You may, but I imagine you are not going to be able to get what you are looking for. Maybe for r&b you can. Imagine say, the first Van Halen record and what it would sound like all in the computer. Of course there are those that will say they could do it . . . but talking and doing it are two different things.
Old 4th June 2008
  #10
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
There's a great signature that a fellow GS member Drew Mazurek has on this forum:
Just because you can't mix in the box, doesn't mean it can't be done.
Old 4th June 2008
  #11
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Knox's Avatar
 

Aw come on Tony . . . as I said, R&B / hip hop it can be done (somewhat). Dave Pensado is one of my good friends. Known him a very long time. I remember him telling me he did a Kelly Price (I believe it was) mix in the box. But that is certainly not what he does daily. Midi instruments with a couple of vocals is a lot different then say a rock band and an old Neve that he may be (original poster) comparing his mixes to. You are always defending Pro Tools and around here saying anything bad about ProTools is like talking about someone's Mom . . . but you tell me . . . could you HONESTLY say you could get the same sound, say as Van Halen had on their first record (just to name ONE record) out of an in the box mix? Yes . . you can get 'A' mix . . but can you get THAT kind of sound? There is no way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Shepperd View Post
There's a great signature that a fellow GS member Drew Mazurek has on this forum:
Just because you can't mix in the box, doesn't mean it can't be done.
Old 4th June 2008
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by peeder View Post
I dunno, I think there are lots of great DVDs and books that help, gearslutz and other online sites can help. Certainly reference can help.
I agree that there are lots of place to pick up tips, techniques, and information, all of which can help immensely when learning to mix. But the fact is that no amount of reading can make a great mix engineer; you have to learn from experience and develop your ears. That's the point I'm trying to make.
Old 4th June 2008
  #13
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
This calls for trouble and will never be answered complete.
Some people say you can and others say you can`t.

Quote:
I remember him telling me he did a Kelly Price (I believe it was) mix in the box.
As you say you believe it was done ITB.... This implements for me that you can not hear the difference????
If you cant hear the difference why are you complaining that only OTB mixes sound good???

I am not a friend of anybody famous here but in my ears I like ITB mixes as well as OTB mixes.
It is not a question for me on which Equipment it has been mixed. Good music will sound good anyway.

Quote:
but can you get THAT kind of sound? There is no way.
I believe if someone has the right mix idea for a song the difference if it is made ITB or OTB will be less than 10%.

In the End the consumer will not hear the difference anyway.
Maybe this is not an argument for a pro engineer.

Also I do have to ask why major labels accept mixes ITB?
If the sound is that bad they should all not accept it.

We are living in 2008 and I believe that for a reason of costs more and more mixes will be done ITB. Also I would love to know how many mixes I hear every day in the radio done OTB or ITB.

But who I am have a little experience 6 years and did listening to different commercial mixes.
Is just a feeling that I have....
Old 4th June 2008
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knox View Post
could you HONESTLY say you could get the same sound, say as Van Halen had on their first record (just to name ONE record) out of an in the box mix? Yes . . you can get 'A' mix . . but can you get THAT kind of sound? There is no way.
Yes.

Absolutely.

In fact, you could get better.

That album really doesn't *sound* that great. It's the playing and attitude that make it magic. The sounds could be way better.
Old 4th June 2008
  #15
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vernier's Avatar
Yeah, the good studios today, theres a ton of outboard, maybe two tons including the console, to prop up Pro Tools.
'
Old 4th June 2008
  #16
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Knox's Avatar
 

Come on James . . . . do you REALLY believe that? It may not sound good to you in the sense that you may be used to or looking for digital and edited so called perfection . . . but it has a sound. It's raw . . . it breathes and pumps, it's like a monster coming down the hall One that can not be gotten from in the box mix. You can get 'a' mix . . . but not the same sound. How can you? It's totally different gear!!

. . . I always find it interesting that some people will rave about certain vintage pre amps / compressors and the like as having their own sound yet they seem to think that their Pro Tools will do everything. Then fight vehemently to defend it.

They all have their uses . . . but there is no nirvana and if there is, it is certainly not in a computer alone. We all have to look at the truth . . . there are limitations and strengths / weaknesses in anything. Vintage or digital.

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker View Post
Yes.

Absolutely.

In fact, you could get better.

That album really doesn't *sound* that great. It's the playing and attitude that make it magic. The sounds could be way better.
Old 4th June 2008
  #17
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
I agree that there are lots of place to pick up tips, techniques, and information, all of which can help immensely when learning to mix. But the fact is that no amount of reading can make a great mix engineer; you have to learn from experience and develop your ears. That's the point I'm trying to make.
That is the truth.

It takes a lot of time and effort to get there, but (to the OP) if you want to get better more quickly, maybe put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you have to get good results fast for people or they will get pissed- you learn a lot faster when you are forced to, and it's a taste of something you will probably have to deal with quite often anyway if you plan on spending any time working as a mixer. You'll probably have to deal with a lot of frustration that way but you might get yourself focused enough to where the end result is going to be a moment where everything just clicks into place.

As far as ITB mixing goes, just think of every plugin you put on any track as a potential way of f**king up the mix- take a step back and see what you can do with levels and automation alone, and only use what plugins you have to. The thought common to a lot of beginning ITB mixers that you have to have plugins on every track is laughable. It's not that you should be scared to use plugins, but the less is more approach works. Also, don't be afraid that the ITB mix is going to be too clean, record raw sounds if you want raw sounds, and just don't think you have to throw on a gazillion tape emulator plugins to get things to sound good, it won't work.

Also doing things like stacking more than one reverb, using modulated delays, and/or lots of modulated effects in very tiny amounts (create busses and send stuff to them) can help make ITB mixes work better. Create subtle movement in the mix with effects, automation and panning. Also it might help to bandpass some of the effects and verbs so they don't take up too much room in the mix, and watch for tracks crowding each other in the highs just as in the lows.

And since you are recording the bands you mix, try your damnedest to get the recordings so good that a couple fader moves and the mix is almost there already.

Just my 2¢.
Old 4th June 2008
  #18
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
Knox,

I have a question to you.
Is mixing ITB that bad that you would highly advise a band not let do their mix ITB?

I am following this discussion since 4 years now and it makes me sick because no one of the PROS is having a clear opinion on this.

So if ITB is that bad what are the reasons why is it in your ears BAD??
I want to learn and hear real opinions.

Also for all the youngsters like me here it would be great if someone is naming us two songs one ITB and one OTB.
It would be great if you can write some comments what the OTB mix is transporting and in which cases the ITB mix is lacking.

But generalization is not good to bring a discussion forward and also is not good for learning for the younger and less experienced interested people here.
Old 4th June 2008
  #19
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Corran's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
Yeah, the good studios today, theres a ton of outboard, maybe two tons including the console, to prop up Pro Tools.
'
Cheez, do you have to spout your anti-digital bile in every thread on this forum? I'm so sick of seeing it! As James Meeker put it, BOTH can sound good! If you "couldn't get it right" ITB I can't see how you could get it right anywhere else either.
Old 4th June 2008
  #20
Lives for gear
 

it depends on what you and your producers are looking for.

for actual/modern sounds you can redo every sound equal or better. but "better" in a technical/theoretical way.

you can´t redo the vibe or the soul of a record which are affected by the gear/signal chain. just as well as the players and their attitude james mentioned himself...
Old 4th June 2008
  #21
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corran View Post
Cheez, do you have to spout your anti-digital bile in every thread on this forum? I'm so sick of seeing it! As James Meeker put it, BOTH can sound good! If you "couldn't get it right" ITB I can't see how you could get it right anywhere else either.
Yes he has and listen to his stuff at myspace.
And further I agree the best OTB desk would not help If you can not shape the sound ITB.
Old 4th June 2008
  #22
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Cheez, do you have to spout your anti-digital bile in every thread on this forum? I'm so sick of seeing it! As James Meeker put it, BOTH can sound good! If you "couldn't get it right" ITB I can't see how you could get it right anywhere else either.
Hey don't be a baby. They're workin' on it, the ITB thing ...I just pointed out a simple fact about PT and the rest being so needy.
'
Old 4th June 2008
  #23
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

Pretty much, my only real beef with mixing ITB, is all the roundtrip conversions that take place when using outboard gear. Take this scenario for instance:

Kick --> D/A Conversion --> DBX 160 --> A/D Conversion

Drum Buss --> D/A Conversion --> Chameleon Labs 7720 --> A/D Conversion

Stereo Buss --> D/A Conversion --> API 2500 --> A/D Conversion



That's 3 roundtrips of conversion just in the mixing process on the kick drum.....which is arguably one of the most important things to "get right" in the mix.
Old 4th June 2008
  #24
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peeder's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benmrx View Post
Pretty much, my only real beef with mixing ITB, is all the roundtrip conversions that take place when using outboard gear. Take this scenario for instance:

Kick --> D/A Conversion --> DBX 160 --> A/D Conversion

Drum Buss --> D/A Conversion --> Chameleon Labs 7720 --> A/D Conversion

Stereo Buss --> D/A Conversion --> API 2500 --> A/D Conversion

That's 3 roundtrips of conversion just in the mixing process on the kick drum.....which is arguably one of the most important things to "get right" in the mix.
That's not ITB that's hybrid. And that's the insert-based variety of hybrid. As opposed to analog summing hybrid.
Old 4th June 2008
  #25
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vernier's Avatar
Quote:
Yes he has and listen to his stuff at myspace.
And further I agree the best OTB desk would not help If you can not shape the sound ITB.
Holmes, buy my Cd's ..they sound perfect. The mp3's on my myspace are small and lossy. Listen to my CD's, then come on here and lets talk.
'
Old 4th June 2008
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
Yeah, the good studios today, theres a ton of outboard, maybe two tons including the console, to prop up Pro Tools.
'
most of the stuff we use outboard is for tracking purposes .. once
we get it in the box, we do some hardware inserts, but not a whole
lot.

jeff
Old 4th June 2008
  #27
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Benmrx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by peeder View Post
That's not ITB that's hybrid. And that's the insert-based variety of hybrid. As opposed to analog summing hybrid.
I guess we've got different views on what's considered ITB.....to me, ITB simply means that's where all the summing is taking place. Not trying to change your mind, just telling you how my brain interprets the term "ITB". .

I'm usually doing the outboard summing thing though anyways. Usually use plugs on all my individual tracks (except vocals), and outboard on my groups....sum the groups on the Neotek, use any 2buss processing, then go back in the DAW to print the mix......now (to me) that's a hybrid approach.
Old 4th June 2008
  #28
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knox View Post
Aw come on Tony . . . as I said, R&B / hip hop it can be done (somewhat). Dave Pensado is one of my good friends. Known him a very long time. I remember him telling me he did a Kelly Price (I believe it was) mix in the box. But that is certainly not what he does daily. Midi instruments with a couple of vocals is a lot different then say a rock band and an old Neve that he may be (original poster) comparing his mixes to. You are always defending Pro Tools and around here saying anything bad about ProTools is like talking about someone's Mom . . . but you tell me . . . could you HONESTLY say you could get the same sound, say as Van Halen had on their first record (just to name ONE record) out of an in the box mix? Yes . . you can get 'A' mix . . but can you get THAT kind of sound? There is no way.

Dave Pensado is a brilliant engineer and could make an unbelievable record even if all he had was a "my first Sony".

This has been said many times before but, it's the wizard, not the wand.
I use Pro Tools extensively and know it very well, but I don't work for Digidesign and I am not on their payroll (though many mindless people think so).
If I were to come across something that works better for me I would use it.
I have progressed from working on Trident and Neve Consoles in the 80's to the Euphonix/RADAR in the 90's to ITB in this decade.
Who knows where the next decade will take me.

You asked whether or not you can make a ITB Van Halen record sound like their first record does. The answer is no.
Ironically Van Halen using the same people working OTB today, can't make a record that sounds like that.
ACDC can't make another Back in Black. (I could on and on with examples)

I listen to old recordings and think they sound amazing, but that was then and this is now.
You can't unwind the sonic hands of time.

No matter how much I want modern rock records to stop having a kick drum that sounds like a midrange "click" instead of a kick with some balls (a la ACDC back in black) well, that's just not going to happen just because I want it to.

In the sonic hands of time, Mixing in the Box is still in it's infancy...
but it's growing up awfully fast and more and more people will learn how to adapt and make it their art form.

Whether it's mixing in the box or some form of Hybrid DAW that floats your sonic boat, with the demise of major console manufactures people will have to find a way to sonically make ITB work for them.
Old 4th June 2008
  #29
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ScumBum's Avatar
 

buy every book and dvd on mixing you can find .

I found my mixes finally competing with the pros when I got better at tracking . Better mic placement , capturing better sounds .

Now its usually just put the faders up and a bit of tweaking . But I did mix almost everyday for years , so that really helped .

The most important thing I learned was that if I got a problem with a mix its usually recorded wrong . Wrong mic , wrong placement , wrong eq settings on guitar head , wrong drum set , wrong musician . Fix it before you mix !
Old 4th June 2008
  #30
Lives for gear
Everybody seems so have some valid points here and there. I'm finding that how the tracks were recorded and how good they sound being tracked has the most impact on how difficult a song will be to mix in the box. The songs that were tracked with compression on the drum room mic, EQ on the toms, compression on the vocals, etc....are a ton easier to mix in the box and I can get decent results with them. The songs tracked dry are far more difficult ITB. If you want professional results ITB then you may want to commit to a sound while tracking. If a track needs to be slammed then slam it before you record it. It seems as though the ones saying to track things dry are also the ones with 15 outboard comps and killer outboard EQ's come mixtime. Not everyone has that luxury. If you want pro quality in the ITB domain. You'll want to print your sounds as finished as possible. If a song is well tracked then I actually prefer to mix it ITB.
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