I just plugged in my Avantone Mixcubes. I haven't had them set up and operational in my home studio for a year or so. In the past I didn't feel like I was getting anything from them of value. So I'd put them in the cupboard. Well, shoot me in the mouth...I plug them in and listen to a song I'm working on right now...I'd done about 6 or 8 mixes of it but after initial bright moments I found that no mix was working. I thought the first mix was a breakthrough...break out the Bollinger old Monkey Allen's finally leaned how to mix! Then I listened to the mix on a phone and laptop and went from breaking out the Bollinger to breaking everything not nailed down in my studio (in my mind). So I go through 5 or 6 more
mixes of this song. Each mix seems to be getting more and more frustrating and lame. I can't work it out because tracking the song was fun. I liked it. All the pieces seemed ok and I thought it'd mix well. No. So, like I said, I mix it several more times. Each time seems more lame that the time before. Some mixes where I sought to really correct perceived problem areas, wound up sounding all but identical to the mix I'd just done previously. Haha.
So anyway, at my wit's end I decide to plug in the Mixcubes and see if they can magically tell me something or make it better. They can't make it better, but they can tell me that, yes, the mix DOES sound like ass. The drums sound like they've cracked the top off my head like an egg and are attacking my exposed brain with mallets. (this is supposed to be a chill, acoustic song) The DI bass sounds like it's sporting every single weird erroneous overtone known to man, and then some man doesn't even know about. It's nowhere near mixed nice with the lame drums. It's like 6db too loud. It sounds ugly. Really, really ugly. The electric guitars are awash with baked in reverb that was a good idea at the time but suck now. No amount of eq will ever, ever fix them. The vocal is lame. Not only lamely sung but lamely eq'd. It's boring, muddy and did I mention lame? The organ, a Rhodes, is also awash with baked in reverb and will always just be a swamp vortex of shit. The shaker and tambourine I recorded sound alright. Pretty hard to fuck them up. There's nothing standing out as horrible...but at the same time they're boring. There's no life to them. I could go on. Well one more thing...the acoustic guitar was something out of a horror show. Multiple eq plugins with multiple notches trying vainly to eliminate all manner of horrible sounding frequency areas...overtones, dullness. Probably the worst track in the whole mix.
So, there's a few more issues here than "Monkey Allen can't mix". Coz Monkey Allen is attempting to work miracles here by attempting to mix pure unadulterated shit.
Which brings me to the issue of preamps, microphones and recording. I have some great preamps...Daking, UA LA 610, Grace. I've got great microphones, U87ai for example. I've got great gear (but no idea). But I'm yet to record something that just sounds like the thing it is. I consistently fail to record an acoustic guitar that sounds like a nice acoustic guitar (which I also have...beautiful Martin D28).
My recording room is 4x3m roughly. Probably horrible for tracking....full of millions of nulls and weird boosting overtones. Sound waves are probably all over the place in there and my poor microphones are simply picking up the horror show as they see it.
I can't move house. I can't change rooms. I'm trapped in there. I have to make it work. I don't expect miracles. All I want is stuff that's recorded and mixed competently and sounds ok sonically on a wide range of playback scenarios. I feel like I write ok songs. I'd love a nice record of them. Nice recordings. Just honest renditions of the songs I've got. I had a quick go at trying to mix drums, DI bass and acoustic guitar from the song I'm working on...using only the Mixcubes. Just 3 elements, keeping it simple. I just couldn't make it work. Couldn't get a good sound. The bass seemed to be all over the drums. I couldn't hear the snare. The acoustic guitar seemed to be over everything. 3 measly elements, drums, bass and acoustic beat me. I scooped here, I boosted there. I did the opposite. I did the reverse. I did nothing. I did something. Nothing worked. So, yeah Monkey Allen can't mix...AND Monkey Allen is trying to polish turds.
Maybe I need to put the old condenser mics in the old holsters and try to eliminate the room as much as possible by using tight polar pattern dynamic mics?
Very frustrating. I've heard countless times that mixing is extremely
hard...until it gets easier. I just dunno. If you ask me I'd say I have to improve in:
a) song arrangement
c) extra attention to tracking
d) using references more
e) I dunno
Have I ever linked to this guy...
This fella just records stuff around his home. His recordings aren't elite highly slick skilled affairs, but the songs sound great. This guy's songs, to me, are 1000x better than any of mine. They are pretty much my favourite home recordings I've ever heard. And maybe that's the difference. He sings and plays with energy and enthusiasm. Maybe my stuff is just pedestrian. His songs are amazing. No question.
But regardless, I still maintain that it's possible for me to record my songs to a sonic standard that, even though the song might not be amazing, sounds
ok. Lord knows there's a million pro songs on the radio that I don't care for...hate even...but they still sound sonically
ok. So I don't think that my problem is poor songs. It's that sonically, they suck.