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Topic: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

  1. #1

    Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!


    I know I\'ve started maybe one too many threads, but I\'m getting so freaking jealous of the quality of audio people are pumping out. The mixes I hear on this forum, and other places sound like a REAL concert hall performance, and no, it\'s not QLSO and its 3 mic positions. Many pieces I hear are with libraries like Garritan Lite, SAM, G-Town, etc, and they sound gorgeous. The instruments are well separated, nothing is boomy, and you feel the depth and space of the instruments. My problem is....how the FUDGE do I emulate that sound? I noticed Paul Houseman\'s Avalanche piece (SAM Contest Winner) was incredibly well mixed, and everything sounded rich, crisp, clean, and even loud!

    What are main methods of approaching a good mixing situation? Should I ever use any Gigastudio effects, or apply VST effects from an external program? Should I record every track separately, then apply reverb accordingly? Should I record the mix all dry, then add a reverb patch over it? Also, how do I EQ correctly for certain instruments in the orchestra? I want to get rid of that boomy sound, and have it more balanced across the sound spectrum. I need help at mixing, because it is one of my biggest flaws. I don\'t want the \"wall of sound\" anymore. Any suggestions, methods, PLEASE HELP!

    Here\'s a 1 minute piece I put together with my current sucky knowledge of mixing. I try to lay off the reverb, but I feel I won\'t \"expand\" the depth of the concert hall if I don\'t. I also tried panning every instrument either mostly right or left. All effects and instruments were recorded together in the mix. I then normalized the whole piece in an audio editor. I would like to see if anyone could make suggestions on where the mix could be fixed, and maybe by the end of this thread, this piece will SOUND a lot better to your ears.


    Jared Hudson

  2. #2

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    I\'m no mixing expert myself, but here is something that should really improve the quality of your mixes. When you are putting all of those instruments into one track, you have to realize that the end result is just that...ONE track. If you try to solo a single instrument, and tweak it so it sounds great on it\'s own, you may find that the song as a whole suffers. Here\'s a possible reason why. When you do this, the instruments can begin having a \"Frequency Fight\". Meaning, two or more instruments may have a frequency overlap, and begin fighting for that range. It can make everything crowded, and sound pretty awful.

    So it\'s good to EQ things while you hear the whole track. I did it the other way around for a long time. Then I read up on this tip, and it has changed my mixes alot! I hope this helps. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  3. #3

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    Jared, have you tried searching through this board? There is HEAPS of info.


  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    Hi Jared,

    There are some things you can do with this...it\'s a good start.

    Really ask yourself what each voice is doing up top. If some voice is playing just because \"it\'s there,\" get it out. And in the individual parts, each of those \"virtual players\" must know where he\'s going. What note is he building to? Where is the energy headed? These are individual part things. Every soloed part should move musically, and with absolutely clear intention. Very little should be static, unless the intention is being static. Most lines should either be pushing to \"get somewhere\" or \"relaxing away\" having already arrived. There are several potential \"moments\" in the first few seconds that are being passed by instead of being milked for their musical value by your virtual orchestra. These virtual musicains are dumber than a bucket of hair--you have to tell them each and every emotion or inflection you wish them to express.

    You can add space to a mix according to the voices you choose. If you think of the palette as a spatial as well as color selection, you can start deciding how you want to picture to expand and contract according to the instrument families you choose. Tuba, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, Double Bass, Bass Trombone...all of these instruments and more can provide the bass voices. It\'s up to you to choose, layer, even combine in force...but that will have a big impact on the size and volume you get in any given section.

    Performance wise, too, there are some places where you, as the \"virtual conductor\" could ask your players to give you some nice dynamic crescendos and diminuendos. In particular, when you bring in the piano, you want the entire group to come up a notch or two and support that voice. Don\'t be afraid to exaggerate the dynamics...as long as the ensemble is in balance and you\'re keeping every voice focused on the energy arc of the overall piece, there\'s nothing wrong with that. The best orchestras are dynamic exaggerators to the absolute extremes of possibility.

    Don\'t forget about pianissimo. One of the great truths of any instrument is that you can only play it so loud (and any idiot can do that), but there are no real limits to how softly you can play. I was fortunate to study under some great teachers. My horn teacher, Michael Morrow, who was a Philip Farkas student (and a member of Henry Mancini\'s orchestra), always pushed me to flirt with silence on pianissimos, and to try to drown out every other sound in the room on fortissimos. Without discipline and listening, of course, the latter can get you bounced from a gig in no time flat!! I guess the point in it is that the distance between what you as a player, and what your \"ensemble\" can achieve between those two points IS your dynamic range.

    Thomas J had a great tip here once, that I hope he will not mind me repeating for him. Find the biggest, loudest, grandest moment in your entire piece, and get that mixed and sounding amazing. Everything else now builds to, or recedes from, that moment. That was a really good tip...and I think it can help you out.

    Sorry. As I write this, I realize I am barely awake and I\'m sure it\'s a fragmented mess. Take heart, man. You\'re so young...don\'t be too concerned about being perfect at everything right now. Plenty of time for that. You\'ll get there. Your heart is in the right place. This can be a nice little piece. Just keep adding, refining, experimenting. You\'re not even close to the mix stage, yet, so keep experimenting with the parts, the orchestration, the voicing...find those colors and combinations and voicings that express what you\'re wanting to say musically, and the mix will be almost an afterthought.

  5. #5

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!


    This is a nice piece! I too am in the same boat you are. I am trying to mix the pop songs I write and am now realizing an utmost respect for a great engineer. Like Bruce mentions a person just has to keep at it. 1 step backwards 2 steps forward. I do 3D animation and multi-media as a day job. When I first started I thought \"This is easy and I\'m good at it\" Now many years later I find the more I learn the less I know!!! Many days where I think I should be pumping gas or making sandwiches at Subway for a living!!! We can never really monitor our own progress as we\'re too close to it. Sometimes though, I\'ll listen to a piece of music that I wrote and say \"You know, that ain\'t to shabby!!\" Those moments make a guy press on. Who knows, there may be a very fine line between Hans Zimmer and the guy who went back to pumping gas!!!

    Keep at it my friend,

    Darren [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    PS Bruce, Thanks for your valuable insight. The whole \"looking to where a note is going\" is a revelation to me. Never heard it expressed like that before but it makes a ton of sense!

  6. #6

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    I don\'t believe the trick is the mixing - it\'s the orchestration and balancing of the different instruments more than anything else! If you get that right, EQ\'ing is just something that you can use to improve things even more. Sometimes people also tend to bring out all instruments to be heard which I think is very wrong. Often, instruments will mainly be there to add to the texture and broaden the sound. For example you shouldn\'t really hear the bassoons during a tutti passage, but they could be there to provide support for horns or cellos - to enhance their sound.

    In your example Jared, the horns are way too loud - they are playing p so they wouldn\'t sound that loud. That\'s what is causing much of the \"boomyness\" here. The piano is also too loud I believe. Then you could consider EQ\'ing a bit out of the final mix at around 140hz to get rid of some of the \"boom\".

  7. #7

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    So many of us in a similar situation as Jared. Although Jared, this mix isn\'t all that bad to my ears outside some volume issues.

    How sobering to learn it has nothing to do with special reverb/eq/compression applications or other engineering feats, but simply composition and volume. This is going to be hard.

  8. #8

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    Hi Jared,

    Great thread. I agree with what was said - the more I learned this \'orchestration stuff\' the more I realize that I can\'t wait to \'fix it in the mix.\'

    Fight hard to make it sound great out right out of giga with maybe just a tad of verb overall.

    My current mindset it to see live orchestras as often as possible. No $$$$ to see the best, then see all that you can (even the bad ones will teach you what NOT to do). This time of year is the best time to see Christmas concerts (many of which are free.)

    Just the other night I say the Mormon Tab Choir and Orchestra perform and it was an eye opener to me on just this issue. To \'see\' the section\'s interplay / sharing of theme developent makes me now think of this \'picture\' when I write. Amazingly, I never before thought about \'balancing\' the stage, but from what I saw the other night - this orchestrator was doing just that. Even on sparsely orchestrated pieces there seem to be a balance on the stage. I know I am probably not describing this correctly (maybe the more experienced Simon and Bruce could elaborate on this.) But the bottom line is just seeing this performance made me approach my own writing and orchestrating differently.

    Let me give an example of one very effective \'performance/mixing\' device that I saw in this live performance (that I may have overlook hearing on CD). On one quick passage the Bass Drum set up a loud boom on one - the bones \'answered\' all the way on the other side of the stage on the and of one and then the choir answered both BD and Bones (choir was largely in the middle back). Imagine, this sound coming from the left back to the right back to the middle back - it was powerful and I thought - dog gone it!! - that composer \'did that for just THAT effect\'!!!!!!

    Mixing should be \'icing\' on the ole cakeola. Ah, so much to learn!!!


  9. #9

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    You might want to check out The Art of Mixing, a Visual Guide to Recording Engineering and Production by David Gibson from mixbookshelf.com. Very useful for managing complex mixes, like orchestra, as well as pop stuff.


  10. #10

    Re: Help me get better at MIXING! PLEASE?!

    Thanks so much for your help so far guys. I tried a few things mentioned, plus some others from another person I talked to. I balanced the volume a little better...hopefully, dropped out the low frequencies, and increased the highs. The mix still sounds quite muddy, because I\'m certain it\'s the freakin big string sample that enters in the middle of the mix. If you pan it, it goes mono and sounds like crap. I\'m still having the problem of \"pushing\" the instruments into the concert hall. They still sound like I\'m right up on them.

    Any ideas on where I should pan certain instruments, and how much reverb to use on each one? Also, should I use the NFX1 reverb in Gigastudio? Thanks.

    Here\'s a slight revision (sorry about the pops and clicks)


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