Mixing SOS

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Can anyone help with this...I keep getting songs where the kick and snare make the mixdown waveform look mega spikey. It can't be good because any mixbus glue compression ideas I may have just don't work because the stereo bus compressor spends its life only looking at these outrageous kick and snare peaks. But if I compress the kick and snare on their own channels they lose the tone they had. If I just turn down the channels they get lost in the mix. Here's a picture...that's a full mixdown. It looks wrong to me. The waveform should be more unified and cohesive...not with these huge spikes leaping out of a thin song body. I can turn down the whole drum track but then I have to chase around turning everything else down in relation to the turned down drums...then in the end I have to increase volume on the master...and that creates spikes again...and back I go turning the drums down again. This is noob stuff I'm sure. But I dunno what I'm doing.
 

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Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
But what does the overall song sound like to you ?
For this particular song...the honest answer there would be...not very good because I'm trying to sing in a key that my voice range can't handle. But also because there's no gelling of things like my voice down into the song. It sounds ok in my studio but sounds weak in other playback situations. I'm pretty sure having those huge spikes is not optimum.

I just looked at a few of my songs and they all have snare spikes like that. Spike spike spike. Relentlessly. I compared to several pro tracks...no such outrageous spike. The pro waveforms are compact. Mine have a narrow body with huge spikes every time the snare hits. I spent the whole morning compressing the snare and kick, using Tape saturation plugins, turning the snare channel down at the fader, trying to get a drum bus mix that's uniform and compact. I tried all the strategies I've heard about and that have been suggested to me. Nothing I did changed the insane snare spikes. I compressed the drum bus as much as I dared while still keeping intact some semblance of original tone. All this did was suck fair amounts of good tone away and lower the overall volume crazily. I then either had to boost the volume with makeup gain...and the spikes would come back...or I had to lower every single other track so I could mix to the lowered drum bus...but this resulted in a feeble total mixdown volume...which had me turning everything back up...bringing the outrageous spikes back all over again.

All the while, this song I'm working on is riddled with these weird artefacts on nylon string guitar tracks like the swirling, gurgling of an old coffee machine...for all I know my u87ai that I paid a zillion credits for is a fake, it sure struggles the fuck out of doing it's sole job - recording cleanly. My bass guitar strings buzz like buzzing's going out of style causing this sucking, swirling vortex of shit, the vst organ had disappearing notes which I finally tracked down to some weird stereo enhancing plugin native to the vst that I had slapped on because that's what I thought all the cool kids did. The vocal is fucked in the head, my provincial peasant accent sounds like I'm ordering Chinese over the phone from a faulty phone booth deep in Satan's ass, the lyrics suck like the Hoover dam, the acoustic guitar sounds like shit, like I strung up some of my old cat's gut between a couple of nails on an ironing board and plucked it with with a piece of bark I found in the garden (hey do ALL Martin D28's recorded with Neumann U87ai's sound like that??) and the cherry on top are these spikey snare drum hits that I never knew existed 5 seconds ago just tapping it in...just ttttttapping it in, givin' it the good old tapperooo...spike spike spike, right on my brain, sealing the deal in this gargantuan delusions of grandeur pipe dream pile of utter shit.

I don't think I can go back in there.
 
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Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
I won't worry about it for now Jimmy, thanks anyway. I'm going to have to take a break for a while, I'm a bit burnt out on this recording caper and I have a job just come up so I'll focus on that. Appreciate it though.

EDIT: I think I found why the snare peaks so badly...in ezDrummer the OVERHEAD channels contain 99% of the snare and kick sound. Mixing EZD down to audio like I do bakes the snare and kick so prominently into the OH channel that you can shape, add plugins, turn down, manipulate the individual snare channel until the cows come home and NOTHING will change. See, I wasn't aware of this. I thought the snare channel was the snare channel. But no. I had eqs, comps, tape saturation on it and it was doing NOTHING. Finally I realised that all the snare and the kick are in the OH channel. It's the OH channel I need to work on. I either need to turn off bleed INSIDE EZD and then mix the drums down to audio...or low cut the hell out of the OH channel so that only the cymbals and hats remain...leaving the snare and kick to involve themselves FROM their own channels. I realised this when I completely turned the snare channel off...muted it...and NOTHING happened to the snare sound in the drum bus. When you mixdown EZD to audio tracks...you're mixing down ALREADY mixed drums. You virtually have to un-mix it in order to mix it again. If you leave it as it is and don't do anything about the hugely prominent snare and kick in the OH channel...they are going to peak madly.

The things you don't know, hey.
 
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mjbphotos

What?!?
I won't worry about it for now Jimmy, thanks anyway. I'm going to have to take a break for a while, I'm a bit burnt out on this recording caper and I have a job just come up so I'll focus on that. Appreciate it though.

EDIT: I think I found why the snare peaks so badly...in ezDrummer the OVERHEAD channels contain 99% of the snare and kick sound. Mixing EZD down to audio like I do bakes the snare and kick so prominently into the OH channel that you can shape, add plugins, turn down, manipulate the individual snare channel until the cows come home and NOTHING will change. See, I wasn't aware of this. I thought the snare channel was the snare channel. But no. I had eqs, comps, tape saturation on it and it was doing NOTHING. Finally I realised that all the snare and the kick are in the OH channel. It's the OH channel I need to work on. I either need to turn off bleed INSIDE EZD and then mix the drums down to audio...or low cut the hell out of the OH channel so that only the cymbals and hats remain...leaving the snare and kick to involve themselves FROM their own channels. I realised this when I completely turned the snare channel off...muted it...and NOTHING happened to the snare sound in the drum bus. When you mixdown EZD to audio tracks...you're mixing down ALREADY mixed drums. You virtually have to un-mix it in order to mix it again. If you leave it as it is and don't do anything about the hugely prominent snare and kick in the OH channel...they are going to peak madly.

The things you don't know, hey.

I see that you discovered in your EZD mixer settings that you can control the snare and overhead bleed in most of the kits. Why are you mixing down EZD to a stereo track first? Set up individual tracks for everything in your DAW, that way you don't have to go back and fix the drums separately. I use EZD all the time, and rarely have to do anything but adjust the relative volumes (and of course pull down the 100% velocity hits that come in some loops). You can even get templates that are set up to do this from the forums at Cockos.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
Whenever you get time. Was just going to see what that looks like mastered. (y)
Thanks Jimmy, I won't send that one. It was a really bad mix anyway. I tried again with my newfound understanding of the EZD overheads etc and I think it'd heading in the right direction now.
On yer feet, soldier.

If you are trying for the modern sound, I think they use pretty heavy compression. Everything is smashed and squashed. They level it hard. If you look at it in the DAW you can see it.
I like your style, Dude. Nah, not trying for a modern sound really. But I did read about parallel compression on the drums with the idea of slamming one to squash peaks and lift body/ rms...and then sliding that in with the uncompressed drums...then fine tuning overall volume of both on the drum bus. I get the idea...just in practice I haven't been happy with the sound of the drums after trying all this.
I see that you discovered in your EZD mixer settings that you can control the snare and overhead bleed in most of the kits. Why are you mixing down EZD to a stereo track first? Set up individual tracks for everything in your DAW, that way you don't have to go back and fix the drums separately. I use EZD all the time, and rarely have to do anything but adjust the relative volumes (and of course pull down the 100% velocity hits that come in some loops). You can even get templates that are set up to do this from the forums at Cockos.
Yeah, I did realise that about the bleed. I knew there was bleed control but I never fully appreciated just how much snare and kick goes into the OH's with the bleed up. I don't mix EZD down to a stereo track...I multi out and convert all the channels (the channels I want to use) to individual audio channels in Studio One. The picture of the spikey waveform I posted before was a picture of the entire stereo mixdown of the whole song! That's vocals, drums, bass, acoustic guitar, organ etc. So just by the waveform you can see that something isn't right...that I'm doing something wrong. I honestly don't think a well mixed song waveform should look like a comb.

Yeah the 100% velocity hits aren't ideal hey. Especially when they relentlessly hit 100% hit after hit. You don't find that your snare is peaking/ spiking on the stereo master bus, like in my picture? I'll have to have a look over at Cockos for those templates. Sounds good.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
Yeah the 100% velocity hits aren't ideal hey. Especially when they relentlessly hit 100% hit after hit. You don't find that your snare is peaking/ spiking on the stereo master bus, like in my picture? I'll have to have a look over at Cockos for those templates. Sounds good.
I edit EZD in the MIDI piano roll in Reaper - can't you do that in Studio One?

I'll insert the loop, open the MIDI editor, then drag all the snare velocity hits down as one, until the 'ghost' hits go to zero, then a little bit more, then drag them all up - the 'ghosts' come back up right away, along with the prime hits. During mixing, I will listen for any too-loud hits I have missed (crash cymbals can be that way too), and just edit the velocity in MIDI again. I do a fair amount of manual MIDI changes anyway, so its not a lot of extra work.
 

spantini

COO of me, inc.
I also use Reaper's piano roll editor to set arbitrary velocities for snare hits - I stick to a range between 70-127 and quickly slide each one up or down, not worrying where it lands. Then I listen back in mix to fine tune.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
I edit EZD in the MIDI piano roll in Reaper - can't you do that in Studio One?

I'll insert the loop, open the MIDI editor, then drag all the snare velocity hits down as one, until the 'ghost' hits go to zero, then a little bit more, then drag them all up - the 'ghosts' come back up right away, along with the prime hits. During mixing, I will listen for any too-loud hits I have missed (crash cymbals can be that way too), and just edit the velocity in MIDI again. I do a fair amount of manual MIDI changes anyway, so its not a lot of extra work.
Yeah, sure I edit the midi in Studio One. You can do that. So, ok, you know EZD...plenty of their midi sees the snare at 100%...and I turn them down. But what's your target level for (let's use snare hits as an example) snare hits on the midi roll? Obviously not 100%, and probably obviously depending on the kind of song you're doing. But have you found that there is a nice level where snares don't jump out so much?
I also use Reaper's piano roll editor to set arbitrary velocities for snare hits - I stick to a range between 70-127 and quickly slide each one up or down, not worrying where it lands. Then I listen back in mix to fine tune.
Yeah I spend a fair amount of time in the Studio One midi/ piano roll thing making sure that crashes and snares and kicks aren't smashing my face off.

And I've (and I know this thread is getting very, very long in the tooth and people are likely sick to death of seeing it. I'll let it die soon enough) just finished another mix of this song Country Mile right because K-dub in the clinic was saying very correctly that the drums sounded like they were behind a sheet or something. And yeah, true...and the bass guitar (DI bass) sounds woolly and ill-defined. So I've just gone in and mixed it again (it's a twee little ditty mildly to fairly cringey...I know that)...so I mix it again and these fucking snare pikes are STILL there. Despite all my rage...all my drum mixing trying to level out these damn snare peaks...they are still there loud and proud. But K-dub says the drums sound like they are...well this is what he said: "Kick is buried. Snare is "blunted" ... like it's under a towel."

Ok, right...so I agree. So I go back in to re-mix...I take some of the reverb off the drums thinking that might be swamping them somewhat. I adjust a thing here, a thing there. I relieve some of the compression on the snare thinking I may have overdone it before. But mainly I'm thinking that the bass guitar is likely masking the drums because that stupid D.I bass is woolly and all over the place with boom. So I go to work on that...trying to make it less woolly and more articulate. So I do all this stuff...the mix is now different from before...I can say that for sure...different but better? I have no idea.

So anyway, I throw the mixdown back into Studio One to have a look at the snare transients...because this is bugging me deluxe. I've done a lot to try to tame the snare peaks...made sure the midi was not slamming 100%, compression, eq, worked on the snare and kick heavy OH's to reduce the snare and kick in the OH's, compressed the drum bus, eq'd etc. And the stereo mixdown song waveform is spikey alright, oh she's spikey just like before. (I KNOW looking at waveforms is dumb...but hear me out coz I'll show you some more in comparison to mine. Anyway, the waveform images are attached.

...aaaand in just making images to post of the waveforms I realise I may be a tad hysterical over my waveform. Tell me what you reckon. But anyway I took waveforms for:

1. Country Mile (my song)
2. Girl Suicide (by Belle & Sebastian)
3. Like Dylan in the Movies (Belle & Sebastian)
4. Handle With Care (Traveling Wilburies)
5. Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat (Bob Dylan)
6. Whiskey in My Whiskey (The Felice Brothers)

Random observations:

a) My song shows military snare precision...like clockwork...extremely prominent spikes. The larger ones are the snare, the ones nearly as large will be the kick. They are quite thin/ narrow and they clearly shoot way up above the RMS. And yet, at least to me...it doesn't sound like the snare and kick is leaping extraordinarily out.

b) Suicide Girl has quite a clear snare but the waveform doesn't show peaky peaks like mine. Nor are they as narrow and slender. That's cool. I'm just describing what I see.

c) Like Dylan in the Movies has quite a distinct snare tapping out the beat in the intro...but there's nothing really resembling my large thin peaks.

d) Handle With Care...this one looks a bit like mine...you can clearly see those peaks. Obviously the song is fuller than mine and the peaks are even visually more beefy than mine. This waveform kind of makes me eat my hat because it shows that even pro tracks can have peaky peaks. My song has peaky peaks. But...even still...the peaky peaks here have some girth. Still, we can put this down to pro tracks doing what pro tracks do, when recorded analogue compared to my digital.

e) Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat again in some ways makes me eat my hat because we can see some regular spikes especially in the right channel where the drums are. But like all pro tracks...the peaks which indicate snare are visually there (just like Handle With Care) BUT the snare doesn't pound your brain. It's there in the mix. We can tell it's a nice robust snare that's being whacked nice and crisply and hard...but it doesn't torment your brain. It's got you covered...it cares for your ears. The mix wants you to know that the snare is there...that it's keeping a solid beat (like Handle With Care even more so)...but it doesn't attack your ear. Your ear enjoys it. With my snares, your ear is more likely to want to hide from it. It's too raw...amateur. It's mixed in a very blunt way...there's no space around it or something. There's no art to the mix. No skill. It's just pound, pound, pound. Listen to pro tracks and you'll know what I mean. You already know what I mean probably.

f) Whiskey in My Whiskey - Lots of peaks here...again I'm eating hats. But these peaks are more part of the body of the waveform. My peaks are things unto their own...they depart from the body of the song like searing rockets...visually. But as K-dub said...the drums are "Kick is buried. Snare is "blunted" ... like it's under a towel." - admittedly that was the prior mix. Maybe the current one is better. I dunno. But still. Makes you wonder if I have managed to achieve the impossible...that maybe my mixing efforts should go on exhibit somewhere as some kind of wonder of the audio world because somehow, against all the odds I've managed to produce a mixdown song waveform that sports eye boggling spikey transients of kick and snare....yet the kick sounds buried and the snare is blunted. Amazing.

Are you still with me? I write a lot and ramble A LOT don't I? I must be some kind of monkey for studying and judging waveforms. I kind of think...after the example of Handle With Care...where the peaks basically looked like a pro version of my waveform...I kind of think that this peak business is not my biggest problem.

I've been trying to take note of pro songs and I notice that they are easy on the ear (what a shock hey) whereas my songs cause your ear to fight in a way. The pro songs have solid snares and kicks...but the mixer didn't shove them in your face. They are easy on the frequency range...they don't come at you at 2khz and try to attack your ear with an ice pick. No, they are much too classy for that. That's bush mixing. Bush. The pro stuff always sounds like the thing it is. The acoustic guitars sound exactly like you imagine an acoustic guitar to sound. My acoustic guitars sound harsh. Bad playing, bad headphone mix...can't properly hear the actual acoustic purely enough when I play it to the drum track. The pro stuff is effortlessly laid back and at home...each part is perfectly at home in the frequency range it is in...my home recordings are not really at home in their frequency ranges. They've kind of stumbled drunk into the neighbour's house and sat down at the kitchen table, dribbling, slurring and teetering. One huge thing about pro mixes is the bass guitar...likely a lot of nicely amped guitars and great players...but the pro bass guitar never drowns out the low frequencies like mine always does. The pro bass guitar is so beautifully and evidently a bass guitar...rich and deep and articulate with every note clear and deep, yet not woolly and boomy. My DI bass seems resilient to any and all frequency shaping under about 200hz. Under about 200hz you've got this big droney, boomy, woolly bass thing. That that's that son.

Still here? Are you insane?

Anyway, I guess I'll keep bashing my head against the old brick wall for a while, then wander off drunk into the neighbour's kitchen for dinner one day at 10 in the morning.

Here's the images:
 

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jimmys69

MOODerator
You really gotta get away from looking at waveforms. All it is telling you is that a visual representation of one audio looks different than another. It really isn't helping the issue man.
Start with building the mix from the ground up. Seems like you are getting closer with the acoustic. Work on the drums next.

Have you experimented with parallel compression on the drums yet? I almost always send just kick/snare/toms to a group completely separate from the main drum bus. There I squash the shit out of it. On the Waves API-2500 I insert on the Drum Squash Group, attack .03ms/ratio 10:1/release 3sec. Blending that in with the non-murdered drums gives the headed pieces of kit way more body in a mix.

Bass guitar can be easy or hard, depending on the bass itself and the player as well. I don't think I have never 'not' processed a direct bass signal in some way. Sometimes micing a cabinet can be helpful, sometimes just a bit of saturation helps. Often I will copy the track and use distortion or saturation on one and blend it. Depends on the song or genre.
Lately I have been playing with Ampeg SVT Suite which I recently purchased. There is a huge amount of versatility with bass tones with this plugin. I have not yet used it on a record, but have been rehearsing songs with it and finally found the tone I was looking for that I had with my old 90's band.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
I agree with Jimmy - STOP looking at your waveforms and listen! EZD samples have already been compressed, you should not need to do anything to them other than adjust levels.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Well-known member
EZD samples have already been compressed, you should not need to do anything to them other than adjust levels.
I dont think this true. Nothing is ready to go. The radio sound doesnt come out your finger tips.

The samples have been compressed, yes. It seems modern music that's on the radio has many stages of compression.

The answer is not less visualizations but more. More data to represent the tracks. Ears are unreliable mixing tools. Useless really.
 

rorohello

Member
I'm just a random moron yelling at clouds, but I happened to click on your Soundcloud after the start of this thread appeared in my email digest, and your mixes slay (on my phone at least) mine. I probably have about as much nice gear as you do, and even more invested in acoustic treatment.

I need to frequent the Mix SOS on this forum more often and try to get my shit to translate as well as yours!
 

rorohello

Member
I'm just a random moron yelling at clouds, but I happened to click on your Soundcloud after the start of this thread appeared in my email digest, and your mixes slay (on my phone at least) mine. I probably have about as much nice gear as you do, and even more invested in acoustic treatment.

I need to frequent the Mix SOS on this forum more often and try to get my shit to translate as well as yours!
Ok I threw your Soundcloud up on the Dynaco and Klipsch after I warmed it up a bit and made a coffee.

I still think these sound great but I can see now about it lacking some low end and harmonic distortion.

The thing is that stuff is easy for a mastering engineer to bring in at the end. Your mixes are clear with great separation of instruments, and great stereo imaging. Bring them to a mastering engineer with a tape deck and some tube goodness for that final push if you want it.
 

Monkey Allen

Fork and spoon operator
You really gotta get away from looking at waveforms. All it is telling you is that a visual representation of one audio looks different than another. It really isn't helping the issue man.
Start with building the mix from the ground up. Seems like you are getting closer with the acoustic. Work on the drums next.

Have you experimented with parallel compression on the drums yet? I almost always send just kick/snare/toms to a group completely separate from the main drum bus. There I squash the shit out of it. On the Waves API-2500 I insert on the Drum Squash Group, attack .03ms/ratio 10:1/release 3sec. Blending that in with the non-murdered drums gives the headed pieces of kit way more body in a mix.

Bass guitar can be easy or hard, depending on the bass itself and the player as well. I don't think I have never 'not' processed a direct bass signal in some way. Sometimes micing a cabinet can be helpful, sometimes just a bit of saturation helps. Often I will copy the track and use distortion or saturation on one and blend it. Depends on the song or genre.
Lately I have been playing with Ampeg SVT Suite which I recently purchased. There is a huge amount of versatility with bass tones with this plugin. I have not yet used it on a record, but have been rehearsing songs with it and finally found the tone I was looking for that I had with my old 90's band.
Yep, agreed. Definitely onto the drums now, trying to get that sussed. Classic...I only just found out that EzDrummer has a "velocity" slider. The slider goes, I think, -127 - 0 - +127. I've been making all my drums at "0". If you ease it back a little for songs that don't need slamming drums, you can reduce the transients before the ball even gets rolling. This should be huge for me in terms of better drums. I have recently been trying parallel compression. Still getting the hang of it. Will check out what you said about bass guitar. Thanks Jimmy.
I agree with Jimmy - STOP looking at your waveforms and listen! EZD samples have already been compressed, you should not need to do anything to them other than adjust levels.
Agreed. I admit it's not such a great way to do stuff, looking at waveforms. Like I just said to Jimmy, I just realised you can use the velocity slider to adjust the force of the drums. Never knew that. Only been using EZD about 8 years. Ha.
I dont think this true. Nothing is ready to go. The radio sound doesnt come out your finger tips.

The samples have been compressed, yes. It seems modern music that's on the radio has many stages of compression.

The answer is not less visualizations but more. More data to represent the tracks. Ears are unreliable mixing tools. Useless really.
I'd agree with this too...it's not 100% ready to go. You can pick a preset that is generally close to what you want and go from there.
I'm just a random moron yelling at clouds, but I happened to click on your Soundcloud after the start of this thread appeared in my email digest, and your mixes slay (on my phone at least) mine. I probably have about as much nice gear as you do, and even more invested in acoustic treatment.

I need to frequent the Mix SOS on this forum more often and try to get my shit to translate as well as yours!
Thanks for saying so...I created this thread because I kept making mixes that were maybe kind of ok but still not really there. (many really just not that good...for every song on my soundcloud there's another 1 or 2 that were fully butchered and I just shut em down and didn't put em up) I just kept making the same mistakes and I needed to work out why specifically in my case. Everyone probably has their own mixing path and all that. I have nobody person to person who could come and hang out and talk me through stuff 1 on 1. So I just put out as much as I could here and lots of people have pinged back at me giving advice. It all helps. It also helps me just to talk my way through it out loud instead of just having everything rumble around in my head. I'm really aiming for much, much better mixes than anything I've done and there's a lot of corners you have to turn it seems. Lots of realizations you have to make. It's very frustrating. I've heard countless times that mixing is insanely hard...until you get it.
Ok I threw your Soundcloud up on the Dynaco and Klipsch after I warmed it up a bit and made a coffee.

I still think these sound great but I can see now about it lacking some low end and harmonic distortion.

The thing is that stuff is easy for a mastering engineer to bring in at the end. Your mixes are clear with great separation of instruments, and great stereo imaging. Bring them to a mastering engineer with a tape deck and some tube goodness for that final push if you want it.
Yeah, that'd be great. I'm still gonna nail mixing much better before that happens though. 8-)
hey, I use a Klipsch monitor too. Awesome.

Monkey Allen is being too hard on himself. They sound like solid efforts. He'll get to the sound he wants. You can tell.
Yep, pretty hard on myself...it's frigging frustrating! But I'm pretty determined to get the sound I want, that's for sure. Not aiming for pro audiophile quality...just very solid home studio mixes.
 
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