Warming up mixes

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
zenlikethat
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Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 12:46 am

Warming up mixes

Post by zenlikethat » Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:42 pm

What method(s) do you guys use to warm up your ITB mixes? Mine seem to often come out pretty cold and digital sounding. I have felt like I've been layering and choosing sounds carefully to achieve maximum punch, but perhaps I need to examine different approaches? Lots of other producers seem to blow me away with their productions' fatness (i.e. Pretty Lights), but I might be a bit too self-critical.

Are there any other plugins that are similar to PSP's VintageWarmer? I recall liking it when I tried it.

One thing that seems to help out, for me, is to create an exciter using Phat Conductor's FX Return method (create a hi pass EQ, create a Saturator after that, send from drums/other high end stuff to taste). It also seems to work best for me when I send drum tracks to that separately before I bus them together for NY compression, set the EQ8 and Saturator to "Hi Quality" mode. Lately I've been experiementing using the "Sinoid Fold" setting for Saturator but I don't know if this really makes a difference- the sin wave just sounds warmer to my (admittedly overworked) ears.

Am I barking up the wrong tree here, or is there obvious stuff I'm missing? Or is this a very frequent problem with tracks produced solely in a computer, mostly without much analog equipment?

DangerousDave
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by DangerousDave » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:13 pm

First thing is first: Think of your mix as a delicate balance. Mixes that sound "warm" tend to have more going on in that warm range (usually the low mids.) This does not mean throw an eq8 on your master and crank up the low mids, but rather you want those sounds to be audible in your mix that are in that freq range. Typically, this means not having a ton of sounds playing in the high freq range, and allowing your mid bass to come through the mix, maybe panning some other sounds out of the way a little bit, can really help warm up your track. If you dont have many sounds in the low mid range, you might want to start there, as that is an easy way to warm up a track. BUT, not all warm sounding tracks have a low mid bass, and this is where it gets a little more challenging. But this goes back to the idea of a balance. Tracks like that don't let the highs overpower the lows/mids, so therefore there is a slight emphasis on the "Warm" area of the track. (And I mean, slight) As with most mixing issues, try to fix things in the mix, before they get to the master. You would be surprised at how much of an impact a proper mixdown can have on the overall balance and sound of your song.

Hope this helps, there are some other, more knowledgeable peeps on here that are more experienced in this area, but this should give you a start.
https://soundcloud.com/unearthproductions
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Ryanmf
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ryanmf » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:18 pm

I'll also preface my recommendations by saying there are many folks here and elsewhere whose knowledge on this topic dwarfs my own, ymmv.

First, take Dave's advice to heart. I get the impression that many people are looking for a "smoking gun" that is "ruining" their mixes when the solution very well may be learn more, gain more experience, and eventually develop the ability to mix your stuff more expertly. To wit, overlapping frequencies can absolutely cut out harmonics and negatively effect sound quality as a result.

Also, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish, but "warmth" may not be the endgame you should have in mind. Plenty of Aphex Twin tracks sound completely "digital" and I suppose "cold" as well, but they're still awesome. For a more recent example, check out Nosaj Thing. Rather than fixating on "warm" or "cold" you should strive for "just right"--which is to say, whatever makes your song sound the best.

But that isn't exactly concrete advice, so here's some that is: variety is the spice of life. In an ongoing search for analog effects units with stereo inputs, I've come to the conclusion that the Sherman/Rodec Restyler and the OTO Biscuit (edit: Biscuit is mostly 8-bit digital for oscillator and envelope generation, waveshaping, and bitcrushing, with an analog filter at the end of the chain. Get it together, Ryan. YOU BIG DUMMY) are two boxes that are very well liked and won't necessarily break the bank. (Well, they might not break yours, the fragility of my own bank accounts for the fact--get it? Bank...accounts? Well, I thought it was punny--that I own neither of them and can't offer a recommendation based on first-hand experience.)

Don't want to spend $600? How about $10 at a thrift store for a cassette recorder and a few tapes? Recording your mixed track to a cassette then back into the box might not make the song sound better, but it should at least make it sound different. Who can say what benefit that may have until you've tried it? (Of course, the extension of this idea is to find a multi track 1/4 tape recorder to track onto, although the cheaper you find it the less likely it is to actually work. Once again, ymmv.)

And you alluded to this already, but there are tons of tape sat and other classic hardware modeling plugins available, some expensive, some cheap, many free. But I'd be wary of falling prey to a line of thinking that slapping a tape saturation plugin on the master bus of a track you don't like the sound of is going to automagically fix anything. However, I do buy into the idea that in some situations it could be beneficial to get those audio files running through DSP software written by anyone other than the software engineers employed by whoever makes your DAW (in this case, Ableton). Maybe that means spending a bit of money on Reaper, rewiring and tracking into that, and attempting a mix there. Maybe you bought a piece of kit that came with a light version of another DAW you could attempt this with. There are a number of ways to accomplish the same thing, but I suppose the idea is that once your audio hits Ableton's master bus, it's going to sound something like Ableton. I don't completely buy that, but it could be worth investigating.

Anyway, none of these things would likely amount to much more to minor tweaks, and if the mix is no good the bullshit in bullshit out tenet brings us back to where we started fix that mix.

(Please note that I'm not calling your work, or your mix, bullshit. I haven't even heard your work, and it's probably better than mine. But if you're not happy with it, then there's work to be done, yeah?)

Good luck!
Last edited by Ryanmf on Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

The Carpet Cleaner
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by The Carpet Cleaner » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:32 pm

can we hear your tracks so we can tell if there is something wrong ?

Dragonbreath
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Dragonbreath » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:21 am

when I find one of the tracks in my mix is lacking punch and is quiet and dull I trow the "a bit warmer" preset for saturor... does wonder...

Tarekith
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Tarekith » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:53 am

"To wit, overlapping frequencies can absolutely cut out harmonics and negatively effect sound quality as a result."

Just wanted to add that all too often people take this (good) advice too far as well. Certainly each instrument needs to have it's own place in the frequency spectrum, but that doesn't mean you need to completely kill all other frequencies with EQ for that part either. Often just boosting the freqs you do want a couple dB can be all that's needed to make the instrument shine where you want it to. Or even better, using EQ to slightly attenuate the parts of the sound you don't want.

Where as using really sharp EQ curves (or high & lo pass filters) to completely kill everything else, and doing this for multiple tracks in a song, can do the opposite and start adding to that cold and harsh feeling people often talk about. It's less about sounds overlapping, as it is sounds fighting against each other for the same frequencies IMO.

Ben_Binary
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ben_Binary » Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:27 am

Tarekith wrote:"To wit, overlapping frequencies can absolutely cut out harmonics and negatively effect sound quality as a result."

Just wanted to add that all too often people take this (good) advice too far as well. Certainly each instrument needs to have it's own place in the frequency spectrum, but that doesn't mean you need to completely kill all other frequencies with EQ for that part either. Often just boosting the freqs you do want a couple dB can be all that's needed to make the instrument shine where you want it to. Or even better, using EQ to slightly attenuate the parts of the sound you don't want.

Where as using really sharp EQ curves (or high & lo pass filters) to completely kill everything else, and doing this for multiple tracks in a song, can do the opposite and start adding to that cold and harsh feeling people often talk about. It's less about sounds overlapping, as it is sounds fighting against each other for the same frequencies IMO.
Very good advice ... again

I got the same mentality as the OP with not liking the sound of my mixdowns as they are too harsh or not well-balanced and "warm" ...
(even though the tracks are made with pretty harsh and sometimes cold sounds anyway) :)

But I am looking to get a warm or thicker sound overall and have a softer sound to the tops and mids without losing that crisp definition a lot of good ears can get.
I notice this most in snares of people like pendulum or noisia where they sound soft (or dont fatigue my ears) yet hard and snappy.

Heres an example of my mixdown: http://soundcloud.com/benbinary/slap

if anyone has got an opinion im all good to hear em and would appreciate any advice no matter how harsh it is.
Cheers
B
soundcloud Live 9 & Push / Reaper / Octatrack / Rytm / MicroBrute / Nord Modular G1 & G2 / Waldorf Rack Attack / Juno 60 / Monotron & Duo / SeratoDJ / Komplete 9 / OhmForce

Ryanmf
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ryanmf » Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:44 am

Ben, what are you using for/how are you handling sub bass?

Ben_Binary
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ben_Binary » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:09 am

Ryanmf wrote:Ben, what are you using for/how are you handling sub bass?
This track is Operator and Event 20/20 monitors.

I have a drumrack with between 1&3 operator patches layered for each different Bass sound.
soundcloud Live 9 & Push / Reaper / Octatrack / Rytm / MicroBrute / Nord Modular G1 & G2 / Waldorf Rack Attack / Juno 60 / Monotron & Duo / SeratoDJ / Komplete 9 / OhmForce

Ryanmf
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ryanmf » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:20 am

I gave it a quick listen on my monitors+sub (which go down to 20hz on paper, technically 35±6db), then again on headphones. I think focusing on sub bass may help you achieve some of the thickness you described.

This tutorial would seem to match up perfectly with what you're doing, both in terms of style and the tools you're using.

Ben_Binary
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ben_Binary » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:35 am

Ryanmf wrote:I gave it a quick listen on my monitors+sub (which go down to 20hz on paper, technically 35±6db), then again on headphones. I think focusing on sub bass may help you achieve some of the thickness you described.

This tutorial would seem to match up perfectly with what you're doing, both in terms of style and the tools you're using.
Thanks mate,
Thats a great idea and I will check it out - good for subness!

BTW I just got Maschine and have Komplete 6 so Ill be trying that (massive) as my new go-to and kontroling and/or sampling operator a bit.
but thinking Ill use Massive now with Maschine more for bass.
I guess I could sample that down and use corpus on it but Ide like to keep it in Maschine.

Cheer
B
soundcloud Live 9 & Push / Reaper / Octatrack / Rytm / MicroBrute / Nord Modular G1 & G2 / Waldorf Rack Attack / Juno 60 / Monotron & Duo / SeratoDJ / Komplete 9 / OhmForce

Ryanmf
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ryanmf » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:56 am

Definitely do whatever works best for you.

For me, Maschine works great as a MIDI controller for Live, the LCD displays are super useful (if you haven't already, check out the "Ablechine" Maschine template on the NI forum, way better than the Ableton template that comes with Maschine) but I get frustrated quickly with Maschine as a VST in Live, mostly because the transport and tempo controls on the Maschine controller lose their functionality, and I get a lot of CPU spikes on my old ass Macbook with Maschine running as a VST. So the workflow that I'm most comfortable with is building drum sequences and sample-based grooves in Maschine standalone, then bouncing the audio to Live for processing, layering additional instruments, etc.

Have fun.

Ben_Binary
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by Ben_Binary » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:08 am

Ryanmf wrote:Definitely do whatever works best for you.

For me, Maschine works great as a MIDI controller for Live, the LCD displays are super useful (if you haven't already, check out the "Ablechine" Maschine template on the NI forum, way better than the Ableton template that comes with Maschine) but I get frustrated quickly with Maschine as a VST in Live, mostly because the transport and tempo controls on the Maschine controller lose their functionality, and I get a lot of CPU spikes on my old ass Macbook with Maschine running as a VST. So the workflow that I'm most comfortable with is building drum sequences and sample-based grooves in Maschine standalone, then bouncing the audio to Live for processing, layering additional instruments, etc.

Have fun.
Yep sounds like what workflow im after - also wanna make sample kits out of vsti's for bass stabs & sound design etc.

Cheers for the corpus and Ablechine info!!!!
soundcloud Live 9 & Push / Reaper / Octatrack / Rytm / MicroBrute / Nord Modular G1 & G2 / Waldorf Rack Attack / Juno 60 / Monotron & Duo / SeratoDJ / Komplete 9 / OhmForce

zenlikethat
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Re: Warming up mixes

Post by zenlikethat » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:42 pm

The Carpet Cleaner wrote:can we hear your tracks so we can tell if there is something wrong ?
http://funnybonesbeats.org/wp-content/u ... -final.mp3

This one has a lot of elements that I like, and I didn't use any Multiband Dynamics on it- just a tiny spot of limiting to get a little extra volume out of it. But it sort of has that harsh, digital feel. Where's the warmth, width, and thickness? I think panning will solve some of my issues- hadn't thought of that before with regards to this particular track. But I think there's still something else eluding me, too.

I come from playing guitar and I crave that organic "sponginess" that a cranked tube amp has- only I want it for my whole mix :twisted:

zenlikethat
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Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 12:46 am

Re: Warming up mixes

Post by zenlikethat » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:44 pm

Tarekith wrote:"To wit, overlapping frequencies can absolutely cut out harmonics and negatively effect sound quality as a result."

Just wanted to add that all too often people take this (good) advice too far as well. Certainly each instrument needs to have it's own place in the frequency spectrum, but that doesn't mean you need to completely kill all other frequencies with EQ for that part either. Often just boosting the freqs you do want a couple dB can be all that's needed to make the instrument shine where you want it to. Or even better, using EQ to slightly attenuate the parts of the sound you don't want.

Where as using really sharp EQ curves (or high & lo pass filters) to completely kill everything else, and doing this for multiple tracks in a song, can do the opposite and start adding to that cold and harsh feeling people often talk about. It's less about sounds overlapping, as it is sounds fighting against each other for the same frequencies IMO.
Thanks man, this has really got me thinking a lot about my EQ use. I might have gotten a bit too carried away with subtractive EQ, cutting when I should just be rolling off etc.

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