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Thread: Using Quick Mix techniques

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    Using Quick Mix techniques

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    The Quick Mix

    Before I ever even think about doing a final mix, I always run off what I call a quick mix for reference. Its handy as well for documenting the end of a days work or to archive progress in a particular session. Its also a way to give a client something for the moment without spending a lot of time on minute details. When I speak of a quick mix, I mean a mix which has a nice balance between the instruments and vocals. A little verb maybe, and some EQ and compression where its really needed.

    I actually discovered this technique one day when I was trying to mix a track and just couldn’t get a handle on it. I just knocked all the faders down, panned everything center, turned off the verb and EQ and decided to start from scratch. I turned my monitors up to a comfortable but not blaring loud. I set the master fader on my mixing board to 0 or unity.

    The first step was to bring up the kick drum—flat—keeping the level 3-4 db below 0 on the meters. Next, I brought up the snare to a level that was relatively equal to the kick. Then I added in the hi hat just enough so I could hear it keeping time, but not "in your face".

    Once I had a nice mix going on the basic drum track, (sans cymbal crashes and toms) I brought the bass up—again flat. Just enough so I could hear it locking with the kick and making a bed. I listened to the low frequency energy of the bass and compared it to the kick, making sure not to drown the kick drum out. As I progressed, I checked the output meters on the board. I saw no clipping there and the individual channels were running clean too. So far, so good.

    Once I had the drum/bass mix balanced, I proceeded on to the guitars, both the rhythm and the lead/fill electrics. I started with the rhythm guitar, bringing it up enough to start driving the track, but not louder than the bass or the drums. Just enough so it helped establish the groove. The lead guitar was doing occasional riffs and fills and I mixedthat so it was a tad hotter than the rhythm—that’s all.

    Finally, there was a piano track. I pulled it up and tried it at varying levels, since keyboards can consume a great deal of sonic territory. I found a place where it sat in the mix without cancelling out the guitars. It wasn’t very loud, but it served its purpose at a low volume.

    With the basic bed mix working pretty well, I went back to the toms and crashes. Having established a relative volume setting for the other parts, it was now easy to hear where the toms and crashes needed to be in relation to the rest of the parts. In this case, the cymbals were mixed back a bit and the toms were mixed a little bit louder. It was all working, but still dry and still mono.

    At this stage, it was time to add the lead vocal. I was surprised by how easy it was to determine how loud to turn it up once the other instruments were mixed. In about 30 seconds, I had that step done. The vocal was clear, intelligible and full, without burying the instrumental mix, and the track was really starting to sound good. I then added in the harmony vocals, one at a time, making sure they were at a somewhat lower level than the lead vocal.

    The song was basically mixed at this point. Only a few things needed to be done. First, there was one passage in the vocal track that was pretty loud. I patched in a compressor to tame those loud peaks and moved on to panning. I put the two guitar parts at 3 and 9
    o’ clock and left the piano in the center. I panned the stereo cymbals and toms hard left and hard right.

    I played with some EQ briefly at this point, adding some 5K to the vocal for presence. I did a slight low cut on both guitars, and boosted 100 on the bass just a bit to fatten it up. I turned it down a couple db after the EQ and it was working well.

    Finally, I added a bit of reverb to the guitars, snare, toms and vocals. Not a bunch, just enough to give them a bit of space. I used more on the backgrounds than on the lead vocal too.

    I checked the meters—still no peaking, which was good. I printed the mix for reference and it sounded pretty darn good! All in all, about 20 minutes. No fader moves or panning, effects changes, etc, but solid.

    It wasn’t what I’d call a finished mix, but it was decent and provided me with a model to listen to as I got familiar with the sound of the tracks. It’s a valuable to skill to have, especially when you don’t have time for diving into a complete mix—those times when you want something to hear in the car or a demo to give to a client for review, etc.

    Since I don’t ever hear this being mentioned, I just thought I’d post this for fun.

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    this is a very commonly used technique. as I described in another thread, it not only handy for the band to listen to for several days, it gives you a pretty good idea of what was done so far. Listening to this mix for a couple of days will start in irritation about some parts, which you will give extra notice and attention when finally mixing.

    I call these one-runs.
    Downside Music Productions
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    yeps, my recordingteacher calls them rough mixes
    what's in a name, they are indeed quite handy.

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    Yep. I've heard it called the 5 minute mix too. Really, its the basis for how to mix. If you've done your engineering really well, it can get you close--real close.

    When I've been working all day in the studio and things seem to sound weird, I do this same technique just to get the mix back to a manageable level. It really helps me.

    And, I'm not sure where this concept started. Not from me, but I did figure it out on my own over time. My reason for posting was that I thought it might be interesting for those who are trying to get a handle on mixing. The experienced people already know this stuff, so it wasn't directed at them.

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    I call them mini mixes myself but I don't usually do an actual mix unless it sounds better then expected. I usually just set the faders and listen to it a few times to make sure all the instruments are working well together and to see if maybe I need to redo certain tracks or parts of a track. If everything sounds OK I move on to whatever is next.

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    I'm using quick mixes to help enforce some discipline on myself. Specifically, don't apply effects just to apply them, especially before all the tracks are recorded.

    What I'm trying to do now is mostly set levels at first, in about the same order the tracks got recorded. At this point I'm also re-recording tracks that didn't have a good balance between "perfection" and "feel". I can't define what that is, but I know it when I hear it. Then I'll burn a CD and listen to it for a while.

    My goal is to force myself to learn not to apply effects until I have a clear purpose in mind for them. At first I just started applying them right away and wasn't focusing on the real reason for using them - either to separate/clarify the individual instruments, add effects that enhance the sound, or fix what needs fixing.

    I'm getting better sounding mixes this way, but since I don't get to spend a lot of time playing and recording this also helps contribute to the fact that it's taking us forever to finish anything. Can't have everything.
    ____________________________________________
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    DaveO--I think its good to wait on the effects too. The dry, uneffected tracks, mixed well, does give a good impression of what is there and will suggest what effects direction might be needed. If we apply effects to everything before we even get a mix going, its hard for the ear to discern whether the problems are mix related or effect related.

    My rule of thumb is that i can only concentrate on two--maybe three things--at one time. Any more than that and I'm overloaded. Sound is not an exact science when it comes to mixing. The recording itself will lead you to unique solutions and no two are the same.

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    Quick mix for me is pretty much soloing each channel and adding effects as I feel necesarry. Then I play with the panning and getting the volume balance for each track right for the chorus. After that its the pan and volume automation along with tweaking the EQ/comp.

    Eck

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    Quote Originally Posted by crawdad
    My rule of thumb is that i can only concentrate on two--maybe three things--at one time.
    I think of it as trying to get an overall tone from my mixes. I listen to channels on their own (in the mix and soloed) and I listen to the mix as a whole for the overall tone. Think of it as placing an EQ on the stereo out to shape the tone, but instead you are using EQ on each individual track to create the overall tone.

    Its about using certain instruments to fill gaps in the overall tone that would otherwise make the mix sound weak or empty.

    Eck

  10. #10
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    This is a "technique"???

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