The Mixing Thread

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The Phat Conductor
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The Mixing Thread

Post by The Phat Conductor » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:15 pm

so i went on a little mission in the last two weeks, asking questions, reading, watching videos, and LOTS of experimentation in the studio. i found out what a naive moron i was being and can't listen to my older mixdowns now. in the hopes that others can share in this slightly painful new joy of mine, i decided i'd make this thread. let's have it serve as a repository for all the mixdown advice we can serve up. i'm probably still a naieve moron, so please enlighten me :D also: feel free to correct anything i may have gotten wrong here.

i would like to thank everyone who got involved in my other mixdown thread, tarekith, laird, andivax, noah pred, meesha, bill bless (audiowash.com) and everyone else who hooked me up over the last little bit. you guys are the best.

ok, so here we go:

first off there is this awesome video from andivax that totally spills the beans on a lot of really important stuff. it's a free download in hi res and totally kicks ass: http://www.udma.com.ua/academy

tarekith's guide to mixdowns:
http://tarekith.com/assets/mixdowns.html

tarekith's guide to levelling in digital audio: http://tarekith.com/assets/Leveling.html

handy eq tips:
http://www.soundpunk.com/index.php?topic=121.0

some tips from me are:

make an exciter to get your high end sounding tight: http://www.ableton.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=40500

percussion routing + drum stacks: http://www.ableton.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=33685

panning!!!!

don't limit yourself to just left/right panning, spreading things is really key. your sound can be upfront but still spread. spreading things often resolves frequency masking, you get a much louder, cleaner, more seperated mixdown if you spread EVERYTHING. some spread suggestions are:

-make an offset panner, it delays one channel by a few ms, creating the effect that the sound is wide, coming out of both speakers individually, instead of all flat and mono.

-create copies of your main synths/samplers and then pan em hard left and hard right. then go in and make subtle changes to things like filter, phaser, eq, redux, etc... this creates the spread without the potential phase conflicts that can result from offset panning.

-make a stereo reverb, the 'enhancer' on most reverbs sucks ass. it's better to make two reverbs, panned ahrd l/r, and then subtly alter their characteristics. also: sounds on the left have more verb on the right and vice versa. this makes things feel a lot more 'real' and '3-d'.

-get a phase scope on the job, and be sure to check everything in mono. you can really fuck yourself over when you get into spreading.

eq tips:

-make sure that you roll the highs off of most of your synths and riffs. it sounds a lot cleaner to have only hihats, cymbals, glitch, and maybe a select few ear candy noises up in the 10k+ range. you just have to make sure that sounds are present in this range throughout the song or some sections will sound flat and empty.

-roll off the low end on everything. <20Hz is no good to anybody.
-roll off everything below about 200Hz on all sounds except for your kick and bass. trust me

-make a notch at 250 on just about every sound that has this frequency. it sound slike muddy garbage on mostly everything. do this before you compress. i put a 30Hz rolloff and a 250 notch first on nearly every channel.

-set all of your eqs to oversampling mode early on. the highs come out a lot cleaner.

-be gentle with your eqs! a delicate tasteful balanceis much better than harshly applying a bunch of 'rules' you just read on the internet!

compression tips:

-easy on the limiters. sure it sounds 'louder' most of the time, but you're flattening the shit out of your highs, and you're also totally screwing your mastering engineer over. it's better to get things loud with careful eq and volume than compression. to shape a sound use the envelopes first!

-sidechain sidechain sidechain! sometimes i even have an 'everything but the kick' bus with a massive sidechain on it. you can not only make things louder, but get a lot of cool musical effects. go listen to sebastiAn or justice to hear what i mean.

-safecracking method: set a ratio of about 4:1, turn the attack up, no release. then set your threshold until you see about 3db of gain reduction. SLOWLY roll the attack back, and then use the release to make the effect transparent (or not).

-you generally don't want more than 6db of compression on anything. it starts to make wierd distortions that if you can't hear now, you will learn to hear and despise. overcompression is like adolescence for a producer. we all go through it, so don't feel like an idiot when you hear it in your old mixes, but you should really make efforts to grow out of it sooner than later. some people get stuck here forever and it's sad.

levelling tips:

-mix at -6db or so. leave the mastering engineer LOADS of headroom, and then render at the highest bitrate you can muster.

-if you set your drums around -10 db, and your bass around -8 or so, you'll end up at -6 db. don't worry about peaking too much. lots of people set brickwall limiters to avoid crossing -6db ever, but that's a bit silly imho. cleaning up all that shit is the mastering engineer's job. if you've left lots of headroom a little 3ms peak here or there isn't going to fuck up your mix.

-don't make the bass too loud! it's easy for a mastering engineer to beef up your bass, but they can't roll it back. if your bass is too loud it'll set the limiter off during mastering and then flatten the life out of all of your drum sounds.

-don't make the hihats too loud either. they become piercing during mastering.

general tips:

-try to solve things with your arrangement first. most issues can be resolved by moving some midi notes around. just take care not to fuck anything up. if you hacen't worked on the tune in a while it's easy to accidentally wreck something. this is best done in later 'tweaking' sessions while you're writing.

-don't be afraid to ask questions. don't be too insecure to listen to the answers.

-establish a talking relationship with whoever is mastering your tunes and ask them for advice. don't be insulted by what they tell you, they know a LOT more than you do about this sort of thing and should be trusted. if you don't trust their advice, get another mastering engineer.

-watch lots of videos and read up. sure there is no 'right' or 'wrong' creatively, but there are DEFINITELY wrong things you can do when mixing. learn what they are and learn to avoid them.

-experiment! if you don't get your hands dirty here and there you'll never make anything interesting. look at the Ed Banger guys, they broke all kinds of 'rules' and created a fresh new sound that is making them rich. mixing in an unusual or creative way can really set you apart form the millions of other hungry kids going after the same genre.

much love!

dylan
Last edited by The Phat Conductor on Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

Tarekith
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Post by Tarekith » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:27 pm

So what were the things you personally found to make the biggest difference in your new mixdowns?

The Phat Conductor
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Post by The Phat Conductor » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:37 pm

Tarekith wrote:So what were the things you personally found to make the biggest difference in your new mixdowns?
-try to resolve things with arrangement first.

-spreading with more than just offset panning. i was only thinking of panning in terms of relative volume, the 'spread' knob, and phase offset. making two chains (one l, one r) and then adding variation to them is an incredibly simple and effective way to achieve stereo separation without resorting to having the parts panned in silly spots.

-easing up on the compression. i always thought that trying to make your mixdown sound like someone else's mastered tunes was the way to go. now i know i was just screwing over my mastering engineers

-talk to your mastering engineer!

-ease up on the highs on everything except for a few select sounds that are present throughout the arrangement. i was adding 10k+ to a lot of sounds in order to make them sharper and more present. it just clutters up the high end and then comes out wack in the mastering. it's better to use other methods to add presence to your midrange sounds.

-mix sober! listen later stoned and make a list. return sober the next day and do everything on the list.

-finish a mixdown. wait a week. then check back. it'll sound totally different.

-take lots of breaks. clean your house. go to the store. go out to eat dinner. do something nice for your girlfriend. you can totally ruin your perceptions without taking at least 1 break of over an hour during the day's work.
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

Kozak
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Post by Kozak » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:58 pm

Will panning make a difference on every track? Use of an exciter sure does but I only seem to hear the effect of panning on pads and hihats: everything in the 3-4k Hz+ region. Isn't the loud clear effect you hear on your synths not just the doubling of two volume signals?
Ableton Live 7.0.2 / Keyboard / Mouse

The Phat Conductor
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Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 9:30 pm

Post by The Phat Conductor » Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:23 pm

Kozak wrote:Will panning make a difference on every track? Use of an exciter sure does but I only seem to hear the effect of panning on pads and hihats: everything in the 3-4k Hz+ region. Isn't the loud clear effect you hear on your synths not just the doubling of two volume signals?
you don't necessarily want to pan each sound, but you want to spread everything that is above around 250-300Hz. if everything has it's own width it resolves a LOT of masking/conflicts between sounds.

try it :D
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

BASSbüro
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Post by BASSbüro » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:19 am

@phat: can you explain "make an offset-panner" a bit more. do you use ableton's auto-pan-plug for that?

my problem is to place the instruments in the stereo-field. when i use the auto-pan-plug my feelin' is, that i lose a lot of dynamics. what i need is something like wave's imager to spread the instrument-parts in the stereo-field. maybe you have other suggestions...........

:D
regards,
thom

JMFOne
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Re: The Mixing Thread

Post by JMFOne » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:39 am

The Phat Conductor wrote: -roll off the low end on everything. <20Hz is no good to anybody.
-roll off everything below about 200Hz on all sounds except for your kick and bass. trust me
Can you just clarify what you personally mean by "roll off"?
I.e are you setting a really high q and dropping the gain a couple of dbs or do you mean using something like auto-filter and using a low pass filter to get rid of everything in that range?

djgroovy
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Post by djgroovy » Mon Mar 03, 2008 3:35 pm

Great thread!

The Phat Conductor
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Post by The Phat Conductor » Mon Mar 03, 2008 3:55 pm

BASSbüro wrote:@phat: can you explain "make an offset-panner" a bit more. do you use ableton's auto-pan-plug for that?

my problem is to place the instruments in the stereo-field. when i use the auto-pan-plug my feelin' is, that i lose a lot of dynamics. what i need is something like wave's imager to spread the instrument-parts in the stereo-field. maybe you have other suggestions...........

:D
making an offset panner:

-make a rack with two chains, one hard left, and one hard right. use utility plugins to isolate each side (ie, no summing to mono and then panning, you want proper isolation of each the left and right side).

-on the chain for the right side, i used a filter delay with the wet turned off, the sync turned off, the filter and two delays turned off, and then feedback all the way down on the one unfiltered delay which remains.

-you get a dry signal which is slightly delayed and you just have to set the number of ms.
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

The Phat Conductor
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Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 9:30 pm

Re: The Mixing Thread

Post by The Phat Conductor » Mon Mar 03, 2008 3:57 pm

James Fowler wrote:
The Phat Conductor wrote: -roll off the low end on everything. <20Hz is no good to anybody.
-roll off everything below about 200Hz on all sounds except for your kick and bass. trust me
Can you just clarify what you personally mean by "roll off"?
I.e are you setting a really high q and dropping the gain a couple of dbs or do you mean using something like auto-filter and using a low pass filter to get rid of everything in that range?
i do it with either the wavearts TrackPlug (it has a 'brickwall(sic)' high pass with a curve near 90 degrees) OR i do it with an eq8 with all 8 poles on. a bit of tinkering gives you a nice sharp cutoff.

you generally don't want a lot of res. you're not trying to add anything here, just remove certain frequencies and leave the rest alone.
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

UKRuss
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Post by UKRuss » Mon Mar 03, 2008 4:08 pm

I wonder (and I suck at it so I have no real idea myself) but I wonder how big a gap there is between the knowledge and results of a producer who uses the tips you sum up and has good experience of getting good results and a professional mastering engineer.

What did you get from talking to your guy? Was what he came up with completely beyond anything you would have thought of technique wise etc?

Or is just a matter of professionalism?

The Phat Conductor
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Post by The Phat Conductor » Mon Mar 03, 2008 4:14 pm

i go through bil bless at audiowash.com. he is a real sweetheart with a keen ear, fast turnover and great rates. he went through some of the finer points of levelling and compression with me, the importance of headroom and high bitrate mixdowns, and taught me a few things about stereo image and resolving potential phase conflicts. very helpful.

this is nothing i didn't know about before, but hearing exactly what is needed really clears up a lot of potential confusion. this is an area where it pays to be very specific.
ill gates aka the phat conductor
producer, performer + ableton/music teacher

http://www.illgates.com

UKRuss
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Post by UKRuss » Mon Mar 03, 2008 4:32 pm

OK.

and

PHEW! It is good to hear there aren't any "secrets" they know that we can never know, if you know what I mean.

It's just a question of gathering the info. and practicing and a lot of a/bing with professional mixes I guess.

friend_kami
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Post by friend_kami » Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:08 pm

i try to end up at -6 aswell, to leave headroom.
im slowly starting to understand the importance of it, been reading up on it. but it sounds like the theory is way fancier then the practice behind it.

i also tend to use an exciter rack i made on a send track, thanks to phat conductors exciter thread :)

speaking of sub rolloffs and all that, i found a neat filter some days ago:
Subfilter II features

* selectable cutoff slope of -12, -24 or -36dB/Octave
* cutoff frequency variable from 10Hz to 1KHz

The filter is extremely useful for removing thumps, bumps and low frequency rumble noise from your audio. The passband is flat (Butterworth filter) and has unity gain. In addition to audio cleanup tasks, SubFilterII can be used with HyperFilter to create “am radio”, “megaphone” and other classic sounds.

SubFilterII is fully functional and has no timeout or other restrictions. For proper operation this plug-in must be used as an INSERT on channel, group or master outputs (the processor will produce no output when used as a SEND effect).
go get: http://www.rocksonics.com/FreePlugs.htm

Kozak
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Location: Groningen, The Netherlands

Post by Kozak » Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:31 pm

Stereo imaging is a vague concept to me. Any good reads somewhere?

As far as I understand every sound has an R and L side how can you change that and place them in a certain direction? They would surely overlap in the center right?
Ableton Live 7.0.2 / Keyboard / Mouse

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