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Mixing for expression
Old 6th May 2006
  #1
Lives for gear
 

Mixing for expression

This is a followup thread to the "Transparency mixing" thread. In this thread I hope we can share some ideas on what makes a mix musical sounding and how to mix for expression.

A very important ingredient in a recording is the musical vibe. This vibe can be caused by a harmonic rich content that has been successfully transfered onto the recorded medium. The artist, his/her instrument as well as the mics used are very important ingredients in musical mixes, since the artist is the original source of the expressions. A non-musical mix sounds flat and boring, it sounds like sound, not like music. A lot of what makes a mix musical sounding is in how natural the velocity response has been translated onto the recorded medium. Cheap converters can simply not translate the velocity into the digital format well enough, which results in less decay and unnatural frequencies over the velocity pitch. The result is that it sounds much less musical than what the instrument actually sounds like. So called digital jitter due to an unstable crystal reference clock can dramatically distort the harmonic content, resulting in less overall resonance and finally in a less expressive less tonally interesting mix.

There are many ways of compensating for this and that's what I thought we could discuss here and hopefully all learn something new from it. You can have a gear approach or a mixing approach or both...

One way of dealing with this phenomenon in mixing is to add dynamics into the song. Try locate the beautiful harmonies and chords in the mix and work around that. A typical non-musical sounding mix might be flat sounding not because the chord progression isn't beautiful enough, but because the frequencies are not loud enough. The mixer has simply erased the frequencies in the balance process, most often by the use of the volume faders and a too cut-intensive approach on EQing. You can find a lot of commercial mixes out there that lack some in the 150 - 450Hz range. This is a very beautiful and musical sounding range that should be efficiently used. One way of dealing with this range is to use EQ automation, dynamic coloring!

Dynamic coloring makes the mix musical sounding, because the frequencies that otherwise are cut during the balance process now come alive. So experiment with automation + EQ/compression/chorus. A surprisingly interesting instrument to use dynamic coloring on is on the bass guitar. We all know that for instance using a multiband compressor on the bass can make it warmer. But it can also become boomy. It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to make the bass guitar as warm as possible for it to not be boomy. You can also compromise by adding compression and then applying a high pass filter on it, though that too will result in lost warmth. But next time, try doing some volume fader automation or compression automation instead and set the bass as warm as you'd like. This will make those very important low frequencies come alive and yet not make the mix boomy...

So what's your way of making a mix very musical sounding?
Old 6th May 2006
  #2
Lives for gear
 
gainreduction's Avatar
 

I get there by not beeing analytical at all.

I just go for the vibe and the flow of the song, until I feel it come alive.

That will bring out the natural dynamics of the song. I exaggerate if necessary.

Not scared to move stuff around a bit.

I can be analytical if there are major problems to solve, other than that it's all about the flow of the song.

It's more important than ever today when most people don't seem to play anything INTO the next part. Most stuff comes in packs of 8 bars...

Playing throughout the whole song with at least one or two of the instruments would help a lot stike stike stike

And you can always ride the master fader a bit. heh
Old 6th May 2006
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction
I get there by not beeing analytical at all.

I just go for the vibe and the flow of the song, until I feel it come alive.

That will bring out the natural dynamics of the song. I exaggerate if necessary.

Not scared to move stuff around a bit.

I can be analytical if there are major problems to solve, other than that it's all about the flow of the song.

It's more important than ever today when most people don't seem to play anything INTO the next part. Most stuff comes in packs of 8 bars...

Playing throughout the whole song with at least one or two of the instruments would help a lot stike stike stike

And you can always ride the master fader a bit. heh
Good advice! Yeah, the master fader can really do wonders, since it dynamically changes the whole mix at once resulting in a lot of additional attention on certain parts of the song... One alternative is to use automation on m/s compression/miking tracks... That sounds really cool too!
Old 6th May 2006
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Automation on master fader?
Old 7th May 2006
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by RainbowStorm

So what's your way of making a mix very musical sounding?
Track it sounding musical in the first place.
Old 7th May 2006
  #6
Gear Guru
 
u b k's Avatar
 

i need a mix comp holding things back just a bit, so i can respond by pushing things too far from time to time and still have it sound musical.

saturation and distortion are beautiful things to my ears.

but more than anything else, it's the song and the arrangement.


gregoire
del ubik
Old 7th May 2006
  #7
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

You can get more stinkin' from thinkin' than you can from drinkin'...
Old 7th May 2006
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson
You can get more stinkin' from thinkin' than you can from drinkin'...
...and you will not stink as long...
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