Mixing SOS

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
You have to learn to listen, pretty much everyone does. I did it by frequenting the MP3 Clinic here, listening to others' mixes, and reading what the people with more experience here commented on - then listening specifically for those things.

Yes. Good point. I will have to listen more in the mp3 forum.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Very nice and tidy.

I'm in a similar boat. I've been spending a lot of time listening to songs that are the same style as I play. I look at them with a spectrum analyzer to see what the different frequencies are doing since I don't have the skill or the ear to know what I'm hearing yet. After many months I am starting sort things out and finally think I'm starting see how mixes should work. It's a long process that you just have to work though.

It is a long process. And I seem to be right at the start of it. Frankly, I'm just flailing here.

Now, bare with me here...I've done something highly unorthodox...but I hope it may shed SOME light on things here.

What I've done is a poor man's frequency analysis. I played

a) one of my songs, a Beatles song (I'm So Tired), an eq sweep, white noise and pink noise...
b) I played all these...the songs in full and the tones for 30 seconds or whatever...and I measured the overall frequency response using a plugin.
c) Next, I got my Behringer ECM8000 measurement mic and placed it right in the listening position
d) Then I played back and recorded all the above mentioned songs/ tones
e) I then played back those files in full and measured the frequency response to see what my measurement mic was roughly showing me in the listening position.

This was not a scientifically accurate exercise...just a rough idea. I'll post 5 image sets here. The 1st frequency graph shows the original frequency response in the DAW. The second image shows the frequency response recorded in my room at the listening position.

Naturally, there's obvious differences. Keep in mind, I think it's better to concentrate on the shape of the response...not so much on the volume shown (though I know that's crucial too). I think these graphs show where problem frequencies may be in my room. Of course, you'd have to accept that the Behringer ECM8000 is decent enough. But even still...just as a very rough comparison, I think it's clear I have problems...separate problems from the wealth of problems I have in general. ;)

The images from L to R are:

1. The EQ Sweep
2. I'm So Tired
3. Melinda (this is my song)
4. Pink Noise
5. White Noise

The 2nd of the images is the one recorded with the measurement mic in the listening position.

It's interesting...and confusing that in the tone generations my room seems to be showing too much bass response...but in the 2 songs not enough bass response.

So, I remain utterly baffled.
 

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jimmys69

MOODerator
I don't know man, I think you may be over criticizing your own songs. Comparing the song you posted and the Luke Fitz one, I actually prefer yours. Both actually have very little going on in the sub frequencies but it seems that is the -for lack of a better term- 'Beatles' type of sound you are going for. In fact, I had to run behind my desk to make sure my sub was even on, because I noticed no difference when I switched it off from my monitor controller.

I would agree your bass tone is kind of bland, but that is likely just the guitar itself. I have had great results giving life to direct bass guitar with PSP Vintage Warmer. Not that it is advised to throw plug ins at everything that doesn't sound good, but I pretty much use this on every record I have produced. Just the 'Bass Line Track' preset is my initial goto for bass guitar. I would try the 30 day trial before spending the $150 for it.

As far as Fitz recording in rooms without treatment. It is not as essential to have treatment in recording rooms. In fact, more often the room can give character to instruments. He may just be lucky in the size of his room, or just has spent time learning to get his mixes to translate to other systems. In my personal opinion, from that video you posted I would not necessarily call that professional sounding. It seems to work for the song though.

I am currently working on funds to rebuild my control room. I have already paid for design drawings and purchased a bunch of the materials to do so. In the process of that, I learned that in my current room size, I have to shorten my length by 8'. The room modes for the existing length basically leave me with no 80hz at my listening position. It is cancelled out. Mixing in this room for the last 10 years, I have been able to compensate by trial and error, but will be amazing when it is complete without any room issues messing with what I hear. I'll likely have to re-learn the room. I digress...

Now, as far as your treatment and listening position from your photo there, there are some issues that are misguiding your judgement. First off, those Prime Acoustic panels are high density fiberglass panels that are good for absorbing mid and upper frequencies, but actually reflect lower frequencies. What is in your DIY bass traps? How are they constructed? Your speakers are very close to the front wall and corners, so you are in likely the worst place you could be to have any sort of accurate representation of what your low end is doing. Nothing you have for treatment there is helping you at all under probably 400hz. I realize most don't have the space to properly treat for low end, but the fact that you are tucked into that wall right in the corner is going to make things really hard to accurately know what you are listening to. Even if you could get those monitors off the front wall a couple feel would possibly help. Ideally you want your listening position at 37% of the length of the room. Not typically possible in a small bedroom size room I know. You stated that your monitors are placed well off back wall. I assume you meant front wall? In the picture you posted it appears they are almost right against the wall. Is that maybe a picture of an earlier layout?

Don't go rolling off any more low end! There isn't any there. 'Fool Up' has nothing in the bass guitar supporting the low end at all. The snare is the first thing that to me isn't sitting right in the mix. 'Better me' is much better to me. Still, there isn't much support in the mix from low end of instruments.

I'm not very busy right now. If you are interested, maybe send me the raw tracks for one of your tunes and I can see if I hear something that sounds off to me. I can throw down a mix from a different perspective that might give some insight into what I hear differently than you.

Anyway, good songs man! It seems like just getting those last little things sitting right in your mixes will take them to the next level.

Cheers man!

Jimmy
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
I don't know man, I think you may be over criticizing your own songs. Comparing the song you posted and the Luke Fitz one, I actually prefer yours. Both actually have very little going on in the sub frequencies but it seems that is the -for lack of a better term- 'Beatles' type of sound you are going for. In fact, I had to run behind my desk to make sure my sub was even on, because I noticed no difference when I switched it off from my monitor controller.

I would agree your bass tone is kind of bland, but that is likely just the guitar itself. I have had great results giving life to direct bass guitar with PSP Vintage Warmer. Not that it is advised to throw plug ins at everything that doesn't sound good, but I pretty much use this on every record I have produced. Just the 'Bass Line Track' preset is my initial goto for bass guitar. I would try the 30 day trial before spending the $150 for it.

As far as Fitz recording in rooms without treatment. It is not as essential to have treatment in recording rooms. In fact, more often the room can give character to instruments. He may just be lucky in the size of his room, or just has spent time learning to get his mixes to translate to other systems. In my personal opinion, from that video you posted I would not necessarily call that professional sounding. It seems to work for the song though.

I am currently working on funds to rebuild my control room. I have already paid for design drawings and purchased a bunch of the materials to do so. In the process of that, I learned that in my current room size, I have to shorten my length by 8'. The room modes for the existing length basically leave me with no 80hz at my listening position. It is cancelled out. Mixing in this room for the last 10 years, I have been able to compensate by trial and error, but will be amazing when it is complete without any room issues messing with what I hear. I'll likely have to re-learn the room. I digress...

Now, as far as your treatment and listening position from your photo there, there are some issues that are misguiding your judgement. First off, those Prime Acoustic panels are high density fiberglass panels that are good for absorbing mid and upper frequencies, but actually reflect lower frequencies. What is in your DIY bass traps? How are they constructed? Your speakers are very close to the front wall and corners, so you are in likely the worst place you could be to have any sort of accurate representation of what your low end is doing. Nothing you have for treatment there is helping you at all under probably 400hz. I realize most don't have the space to properly treat for low end, but the fact that you are tucked into that wall right in the corner is going to make things really hard to accurately know what you are listening to. Even if you could get those monitors off the front wall a couple feel would possibly help. Ideally you want your listening position at 37% of the length of the room. Not typically possible in a small bedroom size room I know. You stated that your monitors are placed well off back wall. I assume you meant front wall? In the picture you posted it appears they are almost right against the wall. Is that maybe a picture of an earlier layout?

Don't go rolling off any more low end! There isn't any there. 'Fool Up' has nothing in the bass guitar supporting the low end at all. The snare is the first thing that to me isn't sitting right in the mix. 'Better me' is much better to me. Still, there isn't much support in the mix from low end of instruments.

I'm not very busy right now. If you are interested, maybe send me the raw tracks for one of your tunes and I can see if I hear something that sounds off to me. I can throw down a mix from a different perspective that might give some insight into what I hear differently than you.

Anyway, good songs man! It seems like just getting those last little things sitting right in your mixes will take them to the next level.

Cheers man!

Jimmy

Thanks Jimmy, very useful advice. I wanna talk about some things you said but first on the speakers and the treatment. I', gonna attach 3 pictures that show the setup more clearly, I hope. I'm not really in the corner of the room...as you can see...it's something of a horror show...the room is small but my listening position is as good as I can get it...I went for that 37% concept. Also you can see that the speakers are roughly a foot and a half off the back wall. In each front corner behind the speakers I DIY'd acoustic polyester "bass traps" which are 2 feet wide and 40cm deep. They go from floor to almost ceiling. Now, to be honest...I simply have not been able to find stuff like Owen's Corning 703 or 704 or whatever the good stuff is. So this stuff that I've used is stuff recommended to me somewhere down the rabbit hole of room treatment. I'm the first one to admit it's not the best stuff for bass treatment. But it's literally all I could find in Australia.

What you said about the PrimeAcoustic stuff, yeah, I agree...I bought the London 10 kit 4 years ago, plus two of their 3 inch bass traps (these are sitting on the front of my DIY corner bass trapping)...and sometime after I bought it I read somewhere that "oh that PrimeAcoustic stuff is great...great if you want to treat the waiting room of a dentist". In other words...it's simply not good. It'll do something...just like you said...but it won't solve my issues.

As far as Luke Fitz and his songs...man...I'm his biggest fan. He's in Australia too. I contacted him some years ago just blown away by the songs he writes. I was trying to pick his brain but he wasn't into talking about his processes. He actually recorded a cover version of one of my songs. He's a mega talented muso...plays drums, guitar, piano, sings great, bass etc. In my eyes the guy's a freak...incredible songs. As for me...I'm more a plonker. I won't kind of go down the "wo is me" thing, but hey, you know, I know my limits musicianship wise, and I'm ok with it. I just strongly believe that I CAN record and mix my songs so they SOUND sonically fine, regardless of how good the songs are. Hell, there's a million songs on the radio I don't like that sound fine.

As for rolling off more low end...actually, I often use an eq on the master and I bump up the low end from 100hz or 12hz or so...bump it up by 1 or 2db, trying to get a fuller sound. But maybe my room is telling me there is plenty of bass...and that's why my mixes are bass light or something. Not sure.

And the bass being bland...well that's a Fender P-Bass! I thought they were supposed to be pretty cool. But yeah...I've been underwhelmed with it. Recording DI (and this is across the board with anything I track...which is all in this room) is lifeless it seems...especially the bass guitar just seems to be a wash of low frequencies where notes are inarticulate...kind of boring. I can say the same about recording vocals or acoustic guitar (not in the low end wash so much) as in the recordings seem bland. I just don't know how I excel in achieving this with the sweet gear I have.

As for the sub frequencies...well yeah, like you said, the stuff I do, I don't think, is sub bass kind of stuff. What I sometimes think of in terms of overall sound is something like The Ballad of John and Yoko...just a great recording. The bass is rich and deep and everything is just so nice. That's the kind of blend I try to imagine. But yeah, as I said, my tracking tends to be very bland. That might (probably is) me and how I sing, play etc.

And man, your offer of a mix...I'd love to take you up on that. I could send you the tracks. Is there one you reckon you'd be interested in? How about Consecration Day? Or maybe Company Stranger? That's relatively straight forward, not too many tracks, so it might be better. Up to you. And also, if you get my raw tracks and listen to them and your feeling is "hmm most of this stuff needs to be re-recorded, it's just not mix ready"...then tell me straight up. Because that's an area that likely needs a lot of improving...the tracking. But, if you're up for it, sure, I'd love to send you a song to mix. Thanks dude.

Here's the pics I spoke about before...
 

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jimmys69

MOODerator
Cool! Those pics definitely show your position much better.

So for treatment there, in that corner I would do away with the Prime A panel at the corner as they are reflecting low frequencies. The polyester isn't doing anything. You want to use the easy to find/inexpensive pink fluffy stuff man. Limp bag absorbers with loose layer in front are your best bet. If you are handy, I would suggest you build yourself a simple pine frame the same 16" ish square space you basically have there. You just need to stack the rolled sheets vertically so they don't sag. The back 10" you need to seal completely in 2 mil plastic. It does not have to be pretty, just sealed. Plastic trash bags could work, or you can use a plastic sealing tool. I have heard that even just using packing tape will work, though sounds pretty cheesy... In front of that 6" of un-sealed insulation covered by easily breathable polyester cloth.

That is the basic principle of the absorption that will be used in my control room build designed by JH Brandt. Though mine also is on all walls and ceiling, plus specially designed membrane traps on front/back walls and diffusers in the rear.

So yeah, just send me all the wav files for a tune of your choice to angellicrage@gmail.com. I'm not concerned about amount of tracks. My current mix project has 30 or more...

I'll have a listen and be straight up with you. You aren't paying me so I have no desire to bullshit ya. LMAO!
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
You said your room is like 16'x13', but those pictures don't look like that - looks maybe 9 feet wide at most. and those monitors are kind of close together - 3 feet? Your listening position should form an equilateral triangle with the speakers.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
You said your room is like 16'x13', but those pictures don't look like that - looks maybe 9 feet wide at most. and those monitors are kind of close together - 3 feet? Your listening position should form an equilateral triangle with the speakers.

You're dead right. My mistake. The room is 8 feet x 11 feet. And the monitors are roughly 3.6 feet apart, with me roughly in the connecting triangle, I guess.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Cool! Those pics definitely show your position much better.

So for treatment there, in that corner I would do away with the Prime A panel at the corner as they are reflecting low frequencies. The polyester isn't doing anything. You want to use the easy to find/inexpensive pink fluffy stuff man. Limp bag absorbers with loose layer in front are your best bet. If you are handy, I would suggest you build yourself a simple pine frame the same 16" ish square space you basically have there. You just need to stack the rolled sheets vertically so they don't sag. The back 10" you need to seal completely in 2 mil plastic. It does not have to be pretty, just sealed. Plastic trash bags could work, or you can use a plastic sealing tool. I have heard that even just using packing tape will work, though sounds pretty cheesy... In front of that 6" of un-sealed insulation covered by easily breathable polyester cloth.

That is the basic principle of the absorption that will be used in my control room build designed by JH Brandt. Though mine also is on all walls and ceiling, plus specially designed membrane traps on front/back walls and diffusers in the rear.

So yeah, just send me all the wav files for a tune of your choice to angellicrage@gmail.com. I'm not concerned about amount of tracks. My current mix project has 30 or more...

I'll have a listen and be straight up with you. You aren't paying me so I have no desire to bullshit ya. LMAO!
Ok, I'll take away the Prime panel behind the speakers for a start and look into the pink fluffy inexpensive stuff. If you can easily find a link showing the kind of stuff you mean, please send it. Thanks. PrimeAcoustic market those 3 inch panels behind my speakers as "bass traps"...so...kind of deceptive there. But I'm not surprised.

And ok, I send the files for a song to you...sometime in the next 12 hours or so. Getting latish here.

Appreciate the no bullshit. I have thick skin dude, don't worry!

Will be in touch
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
Speaking to your MIM P-Bass.. you mentioned the sound you like, and would like to get, is that of The Ballad of John and Yoko. My ears think that sound is thinner than what's on your mixes, not rich and deep as you describe. Like a Jazz bass using the bridge pup. Your P-Bass sounds deeper but also a bit muddy or loose in the lower frequencies.

Maybe there's some connection with you hearing rich and deep as I'm hearing the opposite - maybe that's tied in with your monitoring (perception) differences. I don't think your head or ears are the problem since you obviously can detect good audio in others' work, so it's outside your head.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Speaking to your MIM P-Bass.. you mentioned the sound you like, and would like to get, is that of The Ballad of John and Yoko. My ears think that sound is thinner than what's on your mixes, not rich and deep as you describe. Like a Jazz bass using the bridge pup. Your P-Bass sounds deeper but also a bit muddy or loose in the lower frequencies.

Maybe there's some connection with you hearing rich and deep as I'm hearing the opposite - maybe that's tied in with your monitoring (perception) differences. I don't think your head or ears are the problem since you obviously can detect good audio in others' work, so it's outside your head.

I guess for The Ballad of John and Yoko what I hear is that the bass is tight...like there's zero wool around it...The bass note that is played sounds like just those frequencies associated with that note and probably harmonics up or down from the note resonant frequency. The bass guitar notes I play are not so articulate...it's kind of harder to distinguish the note I play. It sounds like the note is in there somewhere but it's veiled, if you like, by wool or something. If you get my drift.

Also, what like about Ballad of John and Yoko is the overall mix (you could pick all manner of Beatles songs, sure)...it's kind of open...like there's space or holes in it and each part is really nice but has it's own space. This is the kind of mix I'd love to achieve. A lot of this comes down to arrangement...and people like the Beatles weren't too bad in that department, ha. It's arrangement, performance, tone, good tracking. It all has to come together.

Anyway, mixes like that just sound really good to me.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
I guess for The Ballad of John and Yoko what I hear is that the bass is tight...like there's zero wool around it...The bass note that is played sounds like just those frequencies associated with that note and probably harmonics up or down from the note resonant frequency. ...
Listening more closely to The Ballad... it sounds like it may even be one of Paul's Hofner basses (1961?). I had a '65 Hofner 500 RH and it sounds close. I guess only Paul could remember which bass he used.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Wait, what? lol

Bye bye.
I have the tracks ready...do you have dropbox or is there a way I can upload them somewhere for you to download? Either that or I can start emailing them one by one. There's about 350mb's worth of tracks all up.
 

jimmys69

MOODerator
I have the tracks ready...do you have dropbox or is there a way I can upload them somewhere for you to download? Either that or I can start emailing them one by one. There's about 350mb's worth of tracks all up.
I messaged you my wetransfer account login info. (y)
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Anyone reading this and identifying with the struggles of mixing I wanna relate something further...

I was at the end of my rope really (and have been many times ha!) and decided to try to record a very simple song. It's 3 chords...as simple as I could get it. Well I mixed that song no less than 13 times and each time I was sure this is it...this is the one...but it never was. In fact, it was so bad that I wanted to give the entire game away. And this has happened multiple times with past songs. But anyway...so yeah I wanted to give up. The 13 mixes were all bad. It's no super song...but the mixes were just bad. So what I did was, as Jimmy suggested, get some inexpensive pink sound insulation stuff. So I take down all my polyester and put up all this pink stuff. I do some loose bag stuff and build 4 baffles/ traps. So, I square my room away in a DIY kind of way.

But while I was doing all this I was listening...really listening to this song and I started to hear mud in it...in the whole thing and in the instruments. There was mud and a blandness in the drums like drumming on old cardboard boxes. The vocal had way too much reverb. The acoustic guitars were too loud. The bass guitar was swamping things. I thought, geez how come I didn't hear this stuff before? How could I ever have mixed it like that and thought it was ok?! So I think 2 things came into play (well there's another thing, but I'll get to that)...and the 2 things were a) treating the room using a bit more common sense and the advice given and b) me deciding to really listen to the nature of the sounds.

So once the room was done I stripped this song back to bare tracks...took all the plugins off it, all the reverbs, everything. And I started again. At first (and this happens a lot) I couldn't get anything going. I'd try to start with the drums but they always sounded lame. I kept at it and got them as close to the sound I thought they should be and just said stuff it, lets move onto the bass. I didn't waste time...just knocked things in place without getting too forensic. To cut a long story short, I ended up with a mix that really represents what the song is. Things were clear and the mud and wash and wool that had been there before was cleared. It's still not brilliant, the song isn't brilliant. But at least it sounds like an ok sonic impression of what I performed.

The other thing I was talking about before...I realised that my approach to all mixing has been (up until I really tried just to get a clear honest mix of this song) kind of overblown...this is a mellow song and I'd approached it with this mindset of making it big and impressive. I wanted it wide and full of colour and licks and this and that. But I realised this is not the way to go for this song. I ended up mixing the whole thing in 15 minutes, kept most things centre and let the vocal be the main element. I think I served the song, whereas before I had been trying to serve this idea of a mix being some kind of super extraordinary amazing 'thing'. I let all the licks and instrumentation take a back seat way more. I didn't sweat over panning etc.

Maybe I can sum up with one example...in the 13 mixes before, I had managed to make my Martin D28 sound like a shoebox strung with electric fishing line...but in the version I just did it sounds basically like a fairly nice acoustic guitar playing simple G C D chords. Which is what I played.

Sorry for the ramble. But you never know who might benefit from the mixing experiences of people trying to work it out.
 
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Well man, I hope this is the start of something new ;)

Kind of important to have a bit of accuracy in what you hear!
Well man, I hope this is the start of something new ;)

Kind of important to have a bit of accuracy in what you hear!


I thought your songs sounded pretty solid man. I've been recording off and on for the last 15 years mostly just for fun, released a few things but not much. But I thought it sounded pretty good.. I'd be just fine with a mix like the one you've got. Ive noticed whenever I'm really into a mix it's easy to lose perspective on the project as a whole, and it pick away at the tiniest things. Once in a while I'll go back and listen to it in a couple years and realize 'hey, that actually sounds pretty good.' Or sometimes you realize oh that was garbage lol. But I think you've got a pretty solid handle on what you're doing.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Well thanks dude, yeah I know what you mean. The last 3 or so songs I've improved I think. I really wanted to get to a point where more of the songs I tried worked than didn't work. Was getting sick of mixes that just torpedoed the song. I'm pretty certain that a bad mix can ruin an otherwise ok song. Does you no good to spend so much time tracking, coming up with parts etc only to have it all suck because you're grasping in the dark for the right mix decisions. It's compounded when your palette of mixing skills is rudimentary.

The reason for the thread I guess was because I mixed the song 'Company Stranger' 13 times and it sucked every time. Trust me...it was bush. No nitpicking. 13 times, all bad. Was pissed off. I knew there was a simple song in there. The current mix I'm happy with. The most recent song 'Little Baby Dynamite' I'm pretty happy with too...just put that one up.

https://soundcloud.com/user-186908625%2Flittle-baby-dynamite
 
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