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Topic: How to mix properly?

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  1. #1

    How to mix properly?

    Hi guys, I want to ask some of the mixing masters here - what is the best approach to mix so the the sound will have enough space etc.?

    Is it better to bounce each midi track to audio, and add EQ and reverb per track. Or is it better to take complete sections like strings and bounce those to one audio track and add EQ and reverb etc. on that? Or maybe just bounce the whole orchestra and add one EQ and reverb to that?

    Also do you pan in the sequencer or wave editor?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Falcon,

    I always create separate wav files for each Midi Track in the rRAW state...(No EQ applied in Sonar at all-let me explain) You can apply the EQ in Sonar or equiv sequencing software to play in real time to inspire you but prior to creating the Wav file from the midi track(s) pan all to center, remove EQ and Reverb etc..then bring all the RAW state WAV files to a program such as Samplitude Professional. Always use a top notch Audio engine program as mentioned here. If you can think of what the stage (performance) looks like with all of your voices now as separate wav files, you can pan and add EQ while listening to your headphones (this is what I use) to ponder out a few mixes. The final mix is totally subjective on ones part so take your time..Every piece of software used has an individual purpose but they are part of a great sequence to produce a great final mix..

    \"My Cherie Amour\" mixed by Kip McGinnis using Samplitude Professional will be posted this morning on his site. Give a listen to a great mix and collaboration we\'ve planned out over the last 2 weeks..

    Alan Russell

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How to mix properly?

    Originally posted by falcon1:
    Hi guys, I want to ask some of the mixing masters here - what is the best approach to mix so the the sound will have enough space etc.?

    Is it better to bounce each midi track to audio, and add EQ and reverb per track. Or is it better to take complete sections like strings and bounce those to one audio track and add EQ and reverb etc. on that? Or maybe just bounce the whole orchestra and add one EQ and reverb to that?

    Also do you pan in the sequencer or wave editor?

    Thanks in advance!
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Man, that\'s a book you\'re wanting!!

    I\'m going to assume mostly sampled content. That is a very different beast than mixing a session that you\'ve produced from the ground-up. In a session situation, you have control over the microphones and the ensemble sound itself before it is ever committed to media. With samples, many of those decisions have been made for you, and you are in a somewhat defensive position from the outset.

    Gauge the physical size of the ensemble you\'re creating, and find the peaks in the mix. Get those things right from the very beginning. This will generate your ensembles full tutti footprint, whether it\'s a jazz trio or a film orchestra. From that point, it\'s really working backwards to balance your ensemble.

    Unless you have many, many fast computers online, I would print all tracks to disk and mix from the tracks. That way, you are dedicating all of the CPU available to the mix, rather than to the realtime comping of parts.

    EQ per track, definitely. There are literally a million EQ tricks you can use in mixing. Nothing is sacred...you\'re dealing with a situation where your EQ is not only an artistic choice, but a nuts-and-bolts correctional device for places where the sampled \"parts\" don\'t have the same musical intuition a live player could have imparted. Sometimes, you might want to push a divisi section through different EQs per part, to give the principal a bit more brightness. In the orchestra, the secondary chairs would automatically make their tones supportive of the lead voice. In a sampled orchestra, ALL of the solo voices are playing with the same tone quality. EQ is a way to subtly adjust that in a way that mixes more realistically than just making the supporting parts lower in volume...try it. You\'ll get more warmth. That\'s just one creative use of EQ. EQ can help you define distance, by imitating the way proximity effects the sound you hear. An example is someone whispering in your ear vs. the exact same whisper heard across the room. In your ear, you\'d hear the low frequencies of the throat as well as the airy highs of the consonants at point blank range. At ten feet, you\'re hearing only the \"middle\" frequencies...the lows have been reduced by your ear\'s proximity sensitivities, and the extreme highs eaten up by entropy before they ever hit your eardrum. By imitating this phenomenon with EQ, you help define distance.

    Insert a million more EQ tricks here.

    Experiment, experiment, experiment. If someone attempts to lay a purist rap on you about EQ, tell them to kiss your butt. The minute you record something, all bets are off. There is a use for purists, but not in the studio. They lack balls.

    Reverb...per track is really not a necessity. You should, at the least, define some reverb \"zones\" in sends or aux busses, so that you can help further expand the distance manipulations you began with EQ.

    TIP: Try avoiding reverb entirely until you\'ve done everything you possibly can with EQ to expand and enrich the soundstage. You will be amazed at how much more effective reverb is when it\'s applied to a well-EQ\'d mix. You\'ll find yourself using less reverb to get a lot deeper space, and getting that magic clarity that great mixes always have in abundance.

    Reverb is another place to play seemingly unnatural tricks which imitate reality. Think about a stage, and the relationship of placement to reverb phenomena. Downstage center (near the podium), you\'re likely to be in front of the proscenium (if one exists), and therefore as far from the stage walls as anyone in the ensemble. So, when designing your reverb for those positions, you want the first \"early\" reflections to be computed (or relatively derived) from that placement. But at the other extreme, timpani are typically far upstage right or left of center. They are super-close to a reflective surface, so they would have a more immediate first reflection, but also a lot more diffusion by the time that slap reaches the listener. Meaning, that the slap is early, but weak in relationship to the secondary reflective tail.

    That\'s how you achieve placement for the whole ensemble in a naturalistic way. You don\'t need more than three to five reverb channels to get a very good sense of depth, since you can alter the panning going into them and achieve variations even within that structure.

    Don\'t be afraid to use simple delay to create a \"wall slap,\" if that helps you define space better. Oftentimes, a simple slap will serve the mix better than a diffused early reflection engine, and give you more life. Life is what you\'re after in a mix...allowing the listener to suspend his disbelief and taking him on a journey into your evil little brain.

    Stereo width of your core track is an essential part of the equation. Close your eyes, and imagine the ensemble in front of you from a listener\'s perspective. Imagine the size of each musician in that visual picture. Now listen to your tracks. Chances are, the tracks sound like GIGANTIC GORILLAS compared to the visual picture you just drew. This is one of the ironies of large scale mixing. You must make the individual sounds very small and intentionally placed in order for the tutti ensemble to sound truly massive. People who do not grasp this tend to make mushy, washy mixes that are very saturated, but which do not project a sense of grandiose scale.

    The way you achieve that \"grandiosity, for lack of a better term, is to leave an impression of air in the mix which is NOT filled. It is very difficult to make ourselves whittle away at gorgeous sampled tones, but whittle we must if we are to cram 60 (or more) virtual players worth of those tones into a single stereo mix.

    I could go on for about a week, and still you would have just a fraction of the mixing tricks. Read everything you can about mixing, and listen to every great recording you can get your hands on. Get very brutal about listening...zeroing in one one instrument at a time and really paying attention to its size and timbre in the mix. Mixing is just something you have to do and do and do, and one day, a good mix will pop out and you will have made a breakthrough. Reading won\'t make those breakthroughs for you, but will help equip you with the knowledge to know when you\'re having one!!

    As far as gear is concerned, there is very little difference in any of the commercial DAW packages, so use the one you have with confidence. The quality of bundled DSP, however, may vary. Probably the most tried and true brand is Waves when it comes to DSP plugins. There are plenty of other great options, too, but Waves is a very evenly good collection all around. Essentially, a DAW is a DAW is a DAW, save some extremely minor points that won\'t be concerning you. So don\'t feel you need to be using this or that particular mixing system to get great results. The results are all about your ears and your ability to identify and act upon issues which detract from the best possible presentation of your music. A good mixer achieves a balanced, smooth, and engaging mix. A great mixer does all of that, and brings even more art to the table by pushing the boundaries of the gear to places the good mixers don\'t dare go.

    As I said many words ago, I could write for a solid week about mixing and never scratch the surface. I hope I have at least pointed you in the right direction, and have given you some things to consider. Margarita time....

    Best regards,
    Bruce

  4. #4

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Wow!
    Thanks Bruce.
    I think you\'ve just steered about a hundred of us with the same question.

    Enjoy that margarita it is well deserved.


    (88fingers removes hat and bows respectfully to Bruce.)

  5. #5

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Bruce,

    Very helpful post. I have been displeased with my mixing since the day I started. It\'ll sound good, but certainly not great. I\'ve had trouble for a long time achieving that \"depth\" without overusing reverb, or mushing up the orchestra. Reverb is great, and it is a horrible evil also. I noticed you recommended the Waves plugin, and use Sonar and such. Are there any books that you would recommend as great guides to digital mixing, such as orchestral sampled mixes like you were trying to explain? Also, how significant are the samples you are working with when it comes to the mixing itself?

    For example, I\'ve heard some crappy QLSO mixes, and then someone like Thomas Bergersen comes along, takes the library, and just makes that sucker sound like a million bucks. The depth he creates in the mixing is fantastic, and it truly does sound like it was recorded \"live\". You can hear the air in the concert hall. Would random sample libaries like SAM Horns, SI Strings, Dan Dean Woodwinds, and London Percussion still give the same advantage to a good orchestral mix, or would there be more problems? Anyways, I do know what that \"golden\" sound is, it\'s just I\'m blinded by the techniques in order to do so. I need some good guides. Thanks again, and props to Thomas.

    Jared

  6. #6

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Wow, what a post, thanks Bruce! [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  7. #7

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Wow thanks Bruce - your words are very helpful!

    Btw. one \"last\" question - would you bounce the midi tracks as mono or stereo?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How to mix properly?

    Hi Falcon,

    Mono or stereo....

    Depends upon the source and the size of the desired ensemble.

    Say a clarinet were recorded as a sample, and the microphones were a stereo array placed four feet from the clarinet.

    That sound is going to be intimate. If you are trying to represent a chamber or very small ensemble sound, you might leave that track in stereo and collapse it just a little. That would be a plausible and realistic space for the clarinet to occupy in the soundscape.

    If you are trying to place that particular clarinet sample into an orchestral context, I would definitely throw away one of the channels and use it as a mono track. That will eliminate the stereo \"size\" hints...just as closing one eye eliminates the depth perception in your sight.

    But at that point, you would still have a mono signal with EQ hints that define the four foot distance. At this point, to further reduce the image size and make it plausible for an orchestral soundstage, you\'d want to imitate the effect of intervening air on the sound. Some (not all) of the extreme highs will have converted to heat before reaching your ears. A little of the low end warmth will be lost due to proximity effect (not the same degree of proximity effect that cardioid mics display, but the same idea).

    After those two steps, you\'ve made the sound a lot smaller, and you can pan it to the desired point on the soundstage.

    Then, you put the instrument into a reverb send.

    I need to make a disclaimer...there is just no way I can give you definitive mixing instruction in this forum. If I typed all day and all night for weeks, you\'d still have only the smallest piece of the overall puzzle. For every idea I\'m giving you hear, there are 10,000 variations and exceptions. For instance, convolvers have a different function than a reverb, because in the true sense of their application, you are already filtering EQ by convolving the signal through an impulse. Even there, some impulses are designed to be used as reverb--their content has been altered so that they DON\'T impart EQ reductions to the signal. Others do. Adding dry signal to the convolved signal is another can of worms.

    All you can do is try to understand the concepts of acoustics, know how each sample you are using was recorded, then apply the tools you have to mimick the behaviors of sounds in space to your liking. That\'s only the imitative side of mixing, though. In reality, there are no rules whatsoever. Your palette is as unlimited as your imagination. Some of the most brilliant music I\'ve ever heard purposefully breaks rules for effect.

    In the final analysis, it\'s your ability to hear and knowledge of the tools available to you, combined with your taste, which make up the sound that is you. At all costs, you want to establish something that people can say \"wow that\'s Falcon\" when they hear what you have done. Establishing a \"sound\" is what it\'s all about--the need for people to have YOU, not someone else.

    Good luck!!!

    Bruce

  9. #9

    Re: How to mix properly?

    Originally posted by Bruce A. Richardson:
    [qb] ... I would print all tracks to disk and mix from the tracks.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Bruce,
    For orchestal music, do you also suggest making all volume adjustments in the mix i.e. set all midi volumes for full saturation then render to disk -or- controlling volume in the midi environment with additional adjustments in the mix to compensate for EQ, reverb, etc.? Thanks.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: How to mix properly?

    Hi Craig,

    I usually try to keep the tracks very hot, so I\'ll tend to use Expression in the MIDI file to control the \"artistic\" volume changes, and CC7/Volume to control the basic track volume. That way, I can just grab all the volume controllers and plant them on 127 when rendering out the tracks.

    But I vary this all the time depending upon the situation. I am quite literally all over the place on techniques. My main reason for keeping the tracks hot has more to do with the visual aspects of editing once they\'re in the audio domain, rather than any sort of audio quality issue. On 24-bit tracks you have to get very very low to start losing quality.

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