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Thread: I need help with my mix....(Long post here)

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    I need help with my mix....(Long post here)

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    Warning: This post is going to be long; I'll be posting as much info as possible in order to get better help sooner instead of posting a bunch of follow up posts about equipment, etc. Please bear with me, thanks!

    Here is my equipment list:

    Yamaha MD4S recorder
    Shure SM58 Mic
    Peavey PVM 22 Diamond Series Mic
    Cheap electric guitar - Cort
    Danelectro "Fab Tone" stomp box
    Digitech Vocal 300

    Computer equipment:
    Lexicon Core 2 sound card
    Cakewalk (I forget the version. It's the one before they changed name to Sonar.)
    Fruity Loops 3.0
    Several freeware/shareware such as AnalogX progs, etc. (I have not used these much at all, and not for the example that I am using here. I'm only listing to show that I've got it, in case someone might suggest using them, which I doubt.)

    There, with that out of the way, here is my problem:

    I know how to operate all of the above equipment, but most of it, only enough to make it work, and not to make it efficient, and work to its full potential.

    I have tried recording a song, laying down the drums and bass with Fruity Loops, plugging my guitar into the recorder through the stomp box, and running vocals through the Digitech pedal into the recorder.

    By the way, the music is rock.

    Some things that I know already:

    --A real drum kit is much better. I just don't have it, and don't have immediate access to someone that does.

    --Same for the bass.

    --This set up will never let my song sound like I bought the CD from a store, done by a professional.

    I cannot seem to get the mixing down. I can record all of the tracks, throw them all into Cakewalk, and start some kind of mixing, but I just don't know what I'm doing. My biggest problem is that I don't know what the problem is, or where to begin. The song sounds like 3 separate parts: bass/drums, guitar, and vocals. It doesn't sound like a "song." Does that make sense to anybody? I can't seem to get the tracks to melt together so that it sounds like a complete work, instead of some vocals stacked on a guitar, stacked on some drums.

    Obviously, the answer to that question depends on quite a few things that I may or may not be doing with any number of knobs on the recorder, and effects/EQ in Cakewalk. I just don't know where to begin. I've read a bunch of mixing tutorials, and can't seem to do much with what I've got.

    Here's something to let everyone know what I've tried:

    I've pretty much left the sound alone inside the Yamaha. If the EQ settings aren't straight up, they're probably pretty close. Once in Cakewalk, I've added some general effects like reverb, to see if I could smooth it out some, to no avail.

    I copied the lead vocal track, so that there were 2. I panned one about half way to the left, the other about half to the right. This seemed to give a bit more texture, so it's a method that I'll likely reproduce in the future. (Side note here, I'll normally record 2 tracks of anything I'm recording with a mic at the same time anyway, using both mics in different positions and set ups, potentially making this step obsolete.)

    Does my dilema sound familiar to anybody here? I know that I can't make it sound like the latest #1 single quality with my set up, but I'd like to have something that I could use for a demo for myself, and its seems like I should be able to do that with the equipment that I've got right now. Right now, it just sounds almost silly.

    I've played a live recording of the song for people and they love it. I play the version that I tried recording myself with my home studio here, and the responses are totally different. It almost sounds silly.

    I'm just not sure what it is that I should be doing to make the whole song sound more "together," for lack of a better term. I'm sure there are a bunch of small tweaks here and there, not just one big fix. That's what I'm looking for. Does anybody have any idea what my best next (or first!) step should be? Keep in mind, that if I didn't mention it here, I didn't do it. That goes for ANY knob tweaks, etc in Cakewalk. I haven't played with the EQ at all yet, really, because I just don't know how to proceed. Timing on the tracks isn't an issue for me right now, either.

    I just want something that sounds a bit more respectable. It's hard to find the motivation to keep recording when what I listen to sounds like crap, and then think that crap came out of me. I have it in my head, I just can't seem to translate it to the recording the way that I want it to.

    Eventually, I will post a clip from the song here for people to check out and see what they might suggest. (I'm at work right now, and will probably post it tomorrow or sometime soon.) Please don't let this stop you from responding, however! I'm looking for any good advice about how to proceed, if my problem sounds familiar to anybody here.

    I apologize for the length of the post. Thanks for sticking with me, and reading it all. I appreciate any help that I get from the post. I hope to hear from you all! Thanks!!!

    -Speedy

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    The key to a good mix is good tracks. From what you have told us your tracking methods leave a lot to be desired - "plugging my guitar into the recorder through the stomp box, and running vocals through the Digitech pedal into the recorder."

    Then you try tricks that don't help- "I copied the lead vocal track, so that there were 2. I panned one about half way to the left, the other about half to the right. This seemed to give a bit more texture, so it's a method that I'll likely reproduce in the future."

    Study up on the basics of tracking and then the mixes will start to fall in place.

    A few suggestions-

    Mic the guitar amp.
    Record vocals clean from a mic preamp.
    Don't copy and double tracks unless you know what you are doing with them (delay, compression and/or EQ are usually used in those tricks).

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    As far as my methods go, I think I'm probably stuck with what I've got, unfortunately. The closest thing that I could do for a mic pre-amp is to mic my PA speakers for vocals. I have a feeling that this wouldn't give me the desired sound, but I'm not sure, and would try it if you suggest that it would be better than going straight to the recorder.

    As far as my guitar amp goes, it's a Peavey Rage158. (sorry for not listing that above.) It's so small, I don't know if that would be an improvement or not.

    One of my problems seems to be just equipment, then? I can't spare any more cash for what recording right now, so I'm pretty much stuck with what I've got. My guitar set up will be upgraded soon to some Line6 equipment, and I'll have a better guitar, too, but that's probably a couple months away. Other than that, I'm not putting any money into it for a while, I doubt.

    If my problem is largely equipment, then, could someone give me an estimate of what they would say is reasonable for studio time per hour? I've heard $40-$60 to probably a lot more, but I've no idea what's reasonable and what's not.

    If there's a possibility that some different methods of recording using the equipment that I already have, I'd love to hear some of those. Any links for me to study up on tracking would be great too.

    Thanks,

    -Speedy

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    It's not impossible to get a good sound on cheap gear but it's very difficult. If you have cheap gear and little experience than it is an uphill battle every step of the way. This entire forum is filled with good advice so start reading. In about a year you should know just enough to be dangerous.

    Studio rates vary greatly in different cities. A decent studio can be found for around $35-50 an hour. Some studios will give you a project rate where they will do X songs for a flat fee per song.

    It's important to decide what your goal is with your equipment. I think many home reccers go way overboard. They would be better off buying a good rig for their main instrument and going into a small studio to record. Some people just really like to tinker and do the one man band thing so having a home studio makes sense. $5K in gear could give you a decent recording if you were very experienced but that wouldn't even cover cabling in most studios. That $5K could turn out a great album in a few weeks at a real studio or a bunch of mediocre crap over a few years in a home studio.

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    Direct in guitar can sound pretty harsh. You aren't using an amp emulator (right?) so you've just got the bare bone output of the pedal. Unless you have a nice touch with the reverb settings and probably the compressor as well, it's going to be difficult to get a full sound like that. Mic the amp.

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    It's definitely going to be an uphill battle for me. However, I still have some questions, even if the answer is just a point to a particular place for instruction.

    Let me make something a bit more clear, as well. I'm not interested in making money doing this, or doing it for anybody other than myself. That said, I realize that my equipment is sub-par, but I am not looking to record for anybody and ask money thinking that I'm making something worthy of hearing on the radio.

    I only have some basic equipment, so I just want some basic advice. I'll try mic'ing the amp for my guitar. I've known that's the way to go, but my cheap ass amp just doesn't seem worth it.

    And, I'll try recording the vocals dry, and effecting them later. I'll also try to mic a PA speaker for vocals and see how that helps, if it does. (It's the closest thing to a monitor that I'll be having, I'm just not going to spend the money on recording equipment, I'm focusing on instruments right now.)

    All of this was great advice, and I'm gonna give it a go. My next question is, will this make a big difference, do you think? I was actually fairly satisfied with everything, track by track. It was the mixing that I stumbled on the most.

    Is there a standard that is used for mixing, as far as steps to take, etc? For example, does anybody have a "script" of sorts that they follow every time once the tracks are laid, and in the computer? Or is it always different depending on the song? If someone has any ideas about certain steps that they follow every time, no matter what, that would be great info.

    Keep in mind, that if I can't do anything with my current set up other than record something just so that I have something so I won't forget it, and it will always be extremely sub-par, then I understand that, and accept it. I know I don't have a lot of high quality equipment. I just want to be as efficient with what I DO have as I can be.

    Thanks again for the posts, and help, everyone.

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    Originally posted by Speedy VonTrapp
    I'll also try to mic a PA speaker for vocals and see how that helps, if it does.
    ??? Why on earth would you do that unless you are going for some sort of "special effect"?

    As for a mixing "script", I almost always start with just the kick drum and bass guitar. I get them to sound great together, then I bring up the drum overheads.

    If the bass drum continues to sound great, fine. If not, I go back and check for phase problems (but that is usually taken care of in tracking).

    After the overheads are up, I put in the snare drum, toms, hi hat, etc. Basically the rest of the drum kit. I pan the drums to match their placement in the sterio overhead track most of the time.

    Once the whole drum kit and bass guitar are in and sounding great, I add the lead vocals.

    Finally, every other instrument goes in following the order of most important to least important (guitar riff goes in before filler pad part).

    Throughout the whole process, I listen to what each new instrument does. If it hides something when I bring it in, I try to not raise the level of the instrument it hid if at all possible. Instead, I'll try to EQ/compress the new instrument I'm bringing in to try and uncover the instrument that dissapeared.

    When all of that's done, I start adding reverb etc.

    Now, none of those are hard fast rules. It's just how I like to do it.

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    Originally posted by Speedy VonTrapp
    All of this was great advice, and I'm gonna give it a go. My next question is, will this make a big difference, do you think? I was actually fairly satisfied with everything, track by track. It was the mixing that I stumbled on the most.
    The bottom line is that tracks by themselves are irrelevant. If they don't sound good in the mix then it doesn't matter how good they sound by themselves. If you can't raise the faders and have your mix be 80% there then you need to take a critical look at the tracks.

    There are some great threads here about mixing if you look around. In general I start by pulling up the drums, bass and vocals first. I get those playing nice together than I bring in the other stuff.

    The most common mistake is having too much low end and low mids in the tracks. Take a carefull listen and don't be afraid to cut some lows under 150hz on a lot of stuff. You don't want to make it too thin so be gentle but that is a big problem area for many mixes.

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    You can do a lot more with your gear than you imagine at the moment. I would lay it out as follows:

    1) good tracking
    here you need to test the best configuration for your audio chain. If you have a PA, you should be running the vox into that, and using a line out into your soundcard. Keyword to research here: Gain staging. It is critical to getting the best tone possible.
    Try several audio chains and see which one sounds best.

    2) Good editing
    do all the research you can on editing vox/guitar/bass/drums. If you have CW Pro Audio 9, you have shitloads of great editing power at your fingertips. Read the manual: seriously. And do all the tutorials that are relevant to your gear.

    Here you need to learn about compression, EQing, panning, applying effects.

    3) Then it is time to worry about mixing....and honestly, you are a long way away if you haven't got 1 and 2 down yet.

    4) PATIENCE. You have gear to start learning the ropes. It seriously takes time, but the most important things are to do a lot of reading here, at audioforums.com, check the Cakewalk website and look at the Support section for CWPA 9, and read the tech tips there. Scott Garrigus website www.digifreq.com is a great one too.

    It may sound discouraging, but you have to really master the beginning steps and learn how to get the best sound out of the gear you have got (tracking). You have said that you were happy with what you have got already, but I guarantee you, if you read up on gain staging and how to try different routes with your audio chian, you will discover you can get WAY better sound than you already have. It really is about the journey, it takes time to learn, but learn you will, young Jedi.

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