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Common mixing mistakes? Dynamics Plugins
Old 19th August 2014
  #1
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007's Avatar
 

Common mixing mistakes?

If there is such a thing...

We keep saying there are no rules, as some off-the-wall ideas often lead to innovation and dare I say it, genre-defying results.
Love hearing new forward-thinking approaches, however, I feel some fundamentals still apply.

I think many of us have been there, even after a few years of experience, of learning gain-staging, our plugins, compression, eq, monitoring, what to listen for, etc.
We still had those 'wtf' moments when hearing all our hard work of mixing go pear-shaped on another system.
The first measures start playing in the car system and right away, your heart sinks into your heels, "oh my, why so boomy, or, where the fvck did my bass go, why is it so muddy, etc."

A mix that sounded great on your monitors all of a sudden sounds...er, wooly.
Nothing cuts through, all sounds a bit flat, unexciting, almost too well balanced and just plain boring.
That's just one example, there are obviously many different instances where a mix can go tits-up.

- Poor eq'ing
- too much compression
- not enough compression
- too much reverb
- the wrong reverb
- not grouping things


And so on (I'll only list a few, for I want you guys to chime in)

What are some of the biggest culprits you've encountered.
Maybe it was just a listening session with your peers/friends, for fun, beers and talk shop.
(this is what lead me to post this, we were listening to various mixes the other night, from very creative producers but the mixes were just so bad).
Perhaps a mastering engineer getting mixes from an artist/band who was obviously green, and thinking 'oh boy'.
Maybe 'you' are struggling with certain mixing issues and wouldn't mind a little help or advice?

Where do we hear people making the most common mixing mistakes, or shall I say, mishaps.

I suppose I might as well go first - my top pick goes to improper use of reverb.
You hear the intent, but the execution is just horrible.
Either too much on the 'send', or just bad settings on the reverb itself.

Signals that should cut through with in-yer-face upper-mids seem to get lost in their reverb.
(I heard a lot of this with driven guitars and distorted synths that play the main hook)

Off we go.
Old 19th August 2014
  #2
Lives for gear
 

Overcompression/limiting
Old 19th August 2014
  #3
Gear Guru
 

I think the biggest mix mistake you can make is letting the mix out the door without full payment.
Old 19th August 2014
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Going along with what you said, i think a lot of us forget about 'sends' volume. In software, the send value usually automatically sets a nominal level and you raise or lower the 'aux' fader completely forgetting about how valuable that 'send' level can be. i did at least

another "common mixing mistake" is listening environments. some just mix in their basement studios and pass it on to the world. when our band made a cd, we would listen to it in the studio, the van, bedroom, practice room, EVERYWHERE...really taught me, before i started to learn more about recording, that listening is the most important thing we can do to a mix.

however, all mixes sound perfect until you listen to them about a year later...
Old 19th August 2014
  #5
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
I think the biggest mix mistake you can make is letting the mix out the door without full payment.
Good one.
Old 19th August 2014
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 007 View Post
If there is such a thing...

We keep saying there are no rules, as some off-the-wall ideas often lead to innovation and dare I say it, genre-defying results.
Love hearing new forward-thinking approaches, however, I feel some fundamentals still apply.

I think many of us have been there, even after a few years of experience, of learning gain-staging, our plugins, compression, eq, monitoring, what to listen for, etc.
We still had those 'wtf' moments when hearing all our hard work of mixing go pear-shaped on another system.
The first measures start playing in the car system and right away, your heart sinks into your heels, "oh my, why so boomy, or, where the fvck did my bass go, why is it so muddy, etc."

A mix that sounded great on your monitors all of a sudden sounds...er, wooly.
Nothing cuts through, all sounds a bit flat, unexciting, almost too well balanced and just plain boring.
That's just one example, there are obviously many different instances where a mix can go tits-up.

- Poor eq'ing
- too much compression
- not enough compression
- too much reverb
- the wrong reverb
- not grouping things


And so on (I'll only list a few, for I want you guys to chime in)

What are some of the biggest culprits you've encountered.
Maybe it was just a listening session with your peers/friends, for fun, beers and talk shop.
(this is what lead me to post this, we were listening to various mixes the other night, from very creative producers but the mixes were just so bad).
Perhaps a mastering engineer getting mixes from an artist/band who was obviously green, and thinking 'oh boy'.
Maybe 'you' are struggling with certain mixing issues and wouldn't mind a little help or advice?

Where do we hear people making the most common mixing mistakes, or shall I say, mishaps.

I suppose I might as well go first - my top pick goes to improper use of reverb.
You hear the intent, but the execution is just horrible.
Either too much on the 'send', or just bad settings on the reverb itself.

Signals that should cut through with in-yer-face upper-mids seem to get lost in their reverb.
(I heard a lot of this with driven guitars and distorted synths that play the main hook)

Off we go.

mixing is so subjective. As long as it has good spacial element and no weird frequencies going on it's probably a good mix. Who decides what is too much compression? I think the Beatles used too much compression, but most people think that's the way music should sound. I think the only thing there is no excuse for, are muddy/honky mids and mixes with too much muddy bottom.

You could probably find lots of successful records with all the "mistakes" you are describing.

IMO the safe way to mix and record is to stay away from trends. In other words if you listen to 80s mixes they are flooded in digtial reverb and echo and gates, modern mixes are over compressed and limited, over auotuned. In a few years these records are going to make people sick and they will sound dated just on production value alone. 90s mixes are too dry. If you listen to 80s toms and you hear long hall on them you know that's a problem. IMO if a mix sounds like it's from a certain era , then it's a bad mix. Try to make the music sound natural and energetic like the band sounds playing in a good rehearsal room and you can't go wrong. When you start trying to make a band sound like something it's not, then it starts to be a mistake.
Old 19th August 2014
  #7
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StereoSteve View Post
Going along with what you said, i think a lot of us forget about 'sends' volume. In software, the send value usually automatically sets a nominal level and you raise or lower the 'aux' fader completely forgetting about how valuable that 'send' level can be. i did at least

another "common mixing mistake" is listening environments. some just mix in their basement studios and pass it on to the world. when our band made a cd, we would listen to it in the studio, the van, bedroom, practice room, EVERYWHERE...really taught me, before i started to learn more about recording, that listening is the most important thing we can do to a mix.

however, all mixes sound perfect until you listen to them about a year later...
Interesting...

I always found the co-relation between the send level and the return's fader level to be arbitrary.
I usually leave the return channel's fader - say a reverb - to unity, and have each source sent to it at different levels.
However, I can see getting interesting tone results by sending full-on (unity), and playing the aux return channel's level instead, automating certain passages.

Not sure if that's what you're saying, but I feel it's still a hazy area for many.
Following on that, nothing calls for bad reverb judgement in a mix than working in a bad room/environment.
Old 19th August 2014
  #8
Where to start... I suppose my biggest mistake is not investing in better monitors and room treatment.

But I've "learned" my system. Sometimes I don't guess right, either compensate too much or not enough.

I've known this, but for some reason it's so much more fun to buy a new pre, or a compressor.
Old 19th August 2014
  #9
Hi Pass Filters.... I get Metal guys who NEVER use them and wonder why there mix sounds like mush...
Old 19th August 2014
  #10
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
mixing is so subjective. As long as it has good spacial element and no weird frequencies going on it's probably a good mix. Who decides what is too much compression? I think the Beatles used too much compression, but most people think that's the way music should sound. I think the only thing there is no excuses for are muddy/honky sounding mixes also mixes with too much bottom.

You could probably find lots of successful records with all the mistakes yo are describing.
Exactly, which is why I emphasized mishaps, as opposed to 'mistakes' at one point.
Different genres call for different mixing techniques, some of which can be very extreme, yet incredibly creative and also in that they simply 'work' for the genre.

Honky and muddy, wooly, etc, that's what I was trying to get at mostly, it's what I hear the most in many home mixes.
The ideas are great, creative tunes and production, but mixes so flat, where nothing cuts through and steals the pie.
Everything is just so 'in it's place', muddy, two-dimensional, the excitement is nowhere to be found, and again, unpleasant reverb use, at least to my ears.
Old 19th August 2014
  #11
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I know a LOT.

Mixing while fatigued, distracted, uninspired or inebriated would top my list.
Old 19th August 2014
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

The biggest mistake is to think of a mix as a bunch of frequencies to 'make orderly'.

When it is actually a piece of music that needs to be bent into its most emotionally potent form. Until it acts like a life form. The frequencies, etc are just the handles to grab hold of while bending it around.
Old 19th August 2014
  #13
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studjo's Avatar
 

I totally agree with Karloff70 that mixing is about getting the music across (if that's what he meant ) but I just mastered a track where I thought holy frequency mess ... so mixing is about those frequencies too and while I hear over compressed music I hear way more music with an unbalanced freq spectrum. So I guess getting those frequencies right would be a nice start to proper mix ...
Old 19th August 2014
  #14
Gear Nut
 

@ 007

A group of us learned by doing and not by reading any books or consulting any forums and it made for some interesting results - many unable to be duplicated haha. I had a lot of "what the heck have i been doing" and "why did i do it that way!?" moments during school.

That could be another common mistake. Read, read, read and do some more reading about your craft and apply those tactics. knowledge is power!
you'll always have mistakes, but at least they wont be the basics.
Old 19th August 2014
  #15
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

The biggest mistake most of the time is not keeping the lead vocal track in mute.
Old 19th August 2014
  #16
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by studjo View Post
I totally agree with Karloff70 that mixing is about getting the music across (if that's what he meant ) but I just mastered a track where I thought holy frequency mess ... so mixing is about those frequencies too and while I hear over compressed music I hear way more music with an unbalanced freq spectrum. So I guess getting those frequencies right would be a nice start to proper mix ...
May I venture to suggest if one gets the music to come across emotionally and the thing sounds 'right', the frequencies have therefore by definition already been dealt with, whereas it doesn't work the other way round. Often if the frequencies are orderly it does not mean in the least that the music transmits emotion of any power rating.
Old 19th August 2014
  #17
something i notice a lot is people mixing drums or other transients too low because they're using a reference track that is already squashed to death
Old 19th August 2014
  #18
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StereoSteve View Post
@ 007

A group of us learned by doing and not by reading any books or consulting any forums and it made for some interesting results - many unable to be duplicated haha. I had a lot of "what the heck have i been doing" and "why did i do it that way!?" moments during school.

That could be another common mistake. Read, read, read and do some more reading about your craft and apply those tactics. knowledge is power!
you'll always have mistakes, but at least they wont be the basics.
I'm in that group.

I've stopped reading all the SOS and Future Music mags and books years ago.
The last book I got was Mike Senior's, some 4+ years ago, and while it was good, it did get a little redundant.

Those moments you speak of, I think we all still get them every now and then, though lately they've taken a more organic and constructive demeanor.
They're not perceived as mistakes as they once were, if anything, stepping stones to pushing the envelope, and really honing the craft.

You're right, nothing beats just doing, experimenting, and letting the music carry the emotion, I've expressed that many times in other threads.

That said, sometimes people are on the right path, musically, but they just color the mix with such broad strokes, without much of a grasp on a few basics.
But yes, we learn that stuff - the things I know now compared to even just a couple of years ago, crazy...
Better yet, all the new things I will learn and apply in the future, it's part of the process, part of the fun, in that there is no finish line.
Old 19th August 2014
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 007 View Post

Honky and muddy, wooly, etc, that's what I was trying to get at mostly, it's what I hear the most in many home mixes.
That probably has a lot to do with poor monitoring and acoustics. Most home studios suffer from many issues. Although I've heard some pretty incredible stuff recorded and mixed in home studios with no acoustical treatment or high end monitors for that matter.

Let's say hypothetically a song was recorded in a bad room and mixed in a bad control room. If you listen to that mix on a boom box or a car stereo you can still tell it sounds bad and if it sounds too muddy or too boomy. Therefore are poor acoustics and poor monitoring really an excuse? Not really. It makes thing easier and more precise but there is never an excuse for the "demo" sound other than lack of critical listening abilities.......
Old 19th August 2014
  #20
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
That probably has a lot to do with poor monitoring and acoustics. Most home studios suffer from many issues. Although I've heard some pretty incredible stuff recorded and mixed in home studios with no acoustical treatment or high end monitors for that matter.
Couldn't agree more.

Ditto on the great recordings done on dental floss budgets, in $hitty rooms, with $hitty gear.
I've heard a bunch as well, most of which are a result of the mixer's ears, they just know what they're doing.

Not knowing what to listen for when mixing is a big setback for many, and one of the biggest reasons for 'wtf' moments when playing it back elsewhere.
Old 19th August 2014
  #21
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
The biggest mistake is to think of a mix as a bunch of frequencies to 'make orderly'.


this is more like it

a "mistake" is something you can avoid. Something where you should know better.

007's original list :
Quote:
Originally Posted by 007
- Poor eq'ing
- too much compression
- not enough compression
- too much reverb
- the wrong reverb
- not grouping things
are only "mistakes" in hindsight and by definition. After you do a bad mix, you could blame the bad mix on one of those things.

saying don't do "poor eq'ing" is like saying: "don't suck".

sometimes, "too much reverb" is just what the doctor ordered

and some of my favorite mixes are "brute force" mixes- i.e. where each element is dealt with individually and there is no group processing whatsoever.
Old 19th August 2014
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by smoke View Post
I know a LOT.

Mixing while fatigued, distracted, uninspired or inebriated would top my list.
That's actually why I didn't make it to the studio today. I'm just not up to it for some reason. I'll make it tomorrow and mix my little heart out.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
The biggest mistake is to think of a mix as a bunch of frequencies to 'make orderly'.

When it is actually a piece of music that needs to be bent into its most emotionally potent form. Until it acts like a life form. The frequencies, etc are just the handles to grab hold of while bending it around.
I totally get what you're saying, and I strive for it, but its really hard to do if the frequencies aren't making sense. So, sometimes that's the first order of business, make the sounds work together. THEN you can move on to making it beautiful. It's kind of like needing primer when you're going for a total color change.
Old 19th August 2014
  #23
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
The biggest mistake most of the time is not keeping the lead vocal track in mute.
Too true.

@Drumsound....love the primer analogy.

Old 19th August 2014
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
mdmitch2's Avatar
 

In my experience:

Well recorded tracks will solve many mixing problems... and finding the ideal listening position in your room can really help to hear things accurately. (Room EQ wizard is worth learning, and not that hard to use). Lastly, audition a lot of monitors and don't cheap out.
Old 19th August 2014
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
mdmitch2's Avatar
 

And just to add something assuming tracking/room/monitors are sorted:

-Stacking sends on vocals and not EQing returns. If you're like me, you probably have 1 or 2 reverbs on a lead vocal, plus 1 or 2 delays, and maybe other effects on top of that. Sometimes I've forgotten to cut the lows/low mids/upper mids/whatever on these returns, and I end up with an unpleasant build-up of certain frequencies, and the vocal sounds like crap... it kind of sneaks up on you if you're not careful.
Old 19th August 2014
  #26
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Virgil's Avatar
Biggest mixing mistakes (all made by me over and over again until I realised what was wrong):

- Having no clue about how to work with compressors and but using them on every track.
- Having no clue how to work with EQ (what shelving, bell, lo/hi pass are for) and yet using it everywhere.
- Having no clue about gain staging.
- Having no clue about acoustics and mixing in a small square-ish room without treatment (only foam).
-Using small monitors, with no bass response and harsh highs.
- Knowing nothing about how to properly set reverb/delay or what pre delay is and yet using them everywhere.
- Not referencing commercial tracks.
Old 19th August 2014
  #27
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post



saying don't do "poor eq'ing" is like saying: "don't suck".

.

Awesome!
Old 20th August 2014
  #28
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This should be made into a sticky !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
Biggest mixing mistakes (all made by me over and over again until I realised what was wrong):

- Having no clue about how to work with compressors and but using them on every track.
- Having no clue how to work with EQ (what shelving, bell, lo/hi pass are for) and yet using it everywhere.
- Having no clue about gain staging.
- Having no clue about acoustics and mixing in a small square-ish room without treatment (only foam).
-Using small monitors, with no bass response and harsh highs.
- Knowing nothing about how to properly set reverb/delay or what pre delay is and yet using them everywhere.
- Not referencing commercial tracks.
Old 20th August 2014
  #29
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007's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
Biggest mixing mistakes (all made by me over and over again until I realised what was wrong):

- Having no clue about how to work with compressors and but using them on every track.
- Having no clue how to work with EQ (what shelving, bell, lo/hi pass are for) and yet using it everywhere.
- Having no clue about gain staging.
- Having no clue about acoustics and mixing in a small square-ish room without treatment (only foam).
-Using small monitors, with no bass response and harsh highs.
- Knowing nothing about how to properly set reverb/delay or what pre delay is and yet using them everywhere.
- Not referencing commercial tracks.
Yep, sounds familiar.
Old 20th August 2014
  #30
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Sacalait's Avatar
I think this applies... Back in the '90's, I was setting up for a gig in a small club one evening that had a built-in PA. The mixer was locked behind a glass door. I looked at the master graphical EQ and there was this random and very excessive slider thing going on that seemed like whoever used it last, was totally guessing at what they were doing. I turned to one of the musicians and said: "this EQ job tells two things- either the person that did it doesn't know what in the fark they're doing or whoever built this mixer doesn't know what in the fark they're doing!"
I also remember a Tascam mixer I bought in the early '80's. As I was reading the manual I vividly remember the section about the EQ. The writer stayed on this "less is better" groove (cutting some low-end is a better concept than boosting the high-end). Of course music is art and the rules are designed to be broken. YMMV.
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