I've been listening to alot of music and I get a sense all the instruments I hear are equally in the left and right channels, but some instruments are quieter or louder. When I pan a channel just 8% it seems to almost disappear on that channel. My whole Idea is my mix sounds cluttered.. I want to get good separation of all instruments... but I keep getting lost. Im starting to read about Haas and how instruments in the distance seem to loose there high end. Do I eq to get better separation of instuments? If you could please help, I would really appreciate it!
I have a friend who goes by the handle "Mixerman" - that's all he does; he mixes for a lot of the big name records you hear. Here are his thoughts (and mine) about mixing and how to approach it:
This has been posted many times in several different places. Seeing as I will be bringing these steps up from time to time, and there is a constant influx of new people, I will post it here as a referrence.
1. Mixing is an attitude.
2. If the song sucks, the mix is irrelevant.
3. Working the room, keeping people happy and relaxed is half of mixing successfully.
4. Putting everything proportional in a mix is going to make a shitty mix.
5. Gear are tools in a mix that make life either easier or more difficult, they are not what makes a mix good or bad.
6. A mix can be great and not have great sound.
7. If nothing about the mix annoys someone in the room, the mix is often times not done.
8. Mixing can not be taught, it can only be learned.
9. The overall vibe of the track is much more important than any individual element.
10. Just because it was recorded doesn't mean it needs to be in the mix.
11. Be aggressive.
What can I say? My steps are kind of like a Marshall amp. They go to 11.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------And I once posted this:
The Dreaded Mixdown
This is where many new recordists fall down. It's one of the hardest things to get right, but there are a few things you can do to help get your mixes closer to where they should be, right from the start. (MixerMan, who gets paid big bucks to do this, will hopefully jump into this thread at some point.) It requires a different mindset from tracking and arranging. It also requires that you not be married or in love with any one part in the song.
Tip 1. Get as far away from the song as possible before you try mixing it. Don't try to do a mix right after a tracking session. Your ears are fried, and you're too close to the song right now. Objectivity is the word to remember. Wait a few days or even a week or more, if you have that luxury. Yes, some people can do a good mix right away, but that usually takes years to acquire that skill. If you haven't been doing mixes for many years, you ain't one of those people, so wait.
Tip 2. Mix low. Yes, cranking it sounds cool, but it will also introduce more room reflections and give you a warped picture of the sound. Crank it when you think you've got the mix nailed, but keep it low for as long as possible.
Tip 3. Listen to the song, not the tracks. The biggest mistake new mixers make is soloing each track and making it sound full and rich by itself, then they wonder why the whole thing sounds bloated and muddy. There are several methods that work to construct a good mix. You can start by bringing all the faders up, with the pan pots centered, and all effects turned off, or you can decide what the key element in the song is (the vocal, for example), and start working from that. Different engineers use different methods.
Tip 4. Build a box - a small stage in your mind. Imagine a stage. You control where the player appears on that stage. Panning lets you control left to right placement, volume and reverb lets you control front to back, and eq lets you control the frequency blend (low to high).
Tip 5. Resolving conflicts in the mix is the single biggest problem facing a mixer. You'll always find several tracks competing for attention in the same frequency range. The kick competes with the bass. The bass competes with the low guitars. The guitars may be competing with the vocals. The keyboards are all over the place. It becomes an even bigger problem for most people when they solo a track and work to make that instrument sound as big as possible. Bad move. All the instruments hafta work together and a particular instrument has to sound good with ALL the other instruments.
For the good of the song, some of the bottom end on the bass or the guitars may have to be eliminated. Yes, the instrument may not sound good when it's soloed, but it will blend in better when you listen to all the tracks. It's up to you to decide which instruments need to be shaved, but if you concentrate on the song first, it will start to become more and more obvious what needs fixing.
Tip 6. Take frequent breaks and get away from the music for a few minutes. Rest your ears. If you're doing it right, it's the most demanding part of the whole recording process. You are literally listening to ALL the instruments at the same time, following them all at once, and it's easy to burn out. Wanna see an engineer really blow up? Try talking to other people in the control room while he's trying to work on a final mix.
There's a lot more, but we'll save it for another day, or wait to let others weigh in on this most difficult of all subjects.
And Mixerman added:
Ahhhh.. my favorite subject. I could speak for hours and hours on mixing. Harvey's tips are great. Defenitely valuable to the beginning mixer.
What can I add? Well let's start with the fundamentals of what you're working with. It's allot to digest, particularly with Harvey's list, and it should probably have it's own header, but I'll put it here anyway.
Barring 5.1, you only have 2 speakers to work with. But we live in a 3 dimensional world. So we're basically creating an illusion so that a mix sounds 3 dimensional. Let's call this a spatial illusion
When mixing there are 5 planes of spatial illusion. Level, panning, frequency, spatial perception, and contrast. These five planes are all used to create space in a mix.
Front to back: (Level)
Level gives an element of a mix it's own space. Compression on individual channels helps keep the level so that it doesn't disappear in the mix. A loud instrument will appear forward, or towards the front. A quiet instrument will appear to be back or further away.
Left to right: (Panning)
Panning allows you to give an element of the mix it's own space. For instance putting a guitar part hard right keeps it from washing out the vocal.
Up and down: (Frequency)
Frequency is the use of EQ to boost or cut frequencies that either muddy or clear the mix up. For instance 250Hz-700Hz are fairly muddy frequencies, and if you have too many instruments using this frequency range the mix could be muddy. Everything in an arrangement or mix should have it's own unique fundamental frequency space.
Far and near: (Spatial Perception)
Spatial perception is the use of reverbs, chambers, plates, delays, far mic placement, etc.. to create the illusion of space in the mix. An instrument with allot of reverb can sound like it is placed in a large hall. An instrument or a vocal with a long delay, can sound like it's in the alps. An instrument that's completely dry, will sound like it's in a small carpeted room, right next to you.
Sparse to dense: (Contrast)
Arrangement is the use of muting, and altering the recorded arrangement to create space where it is needed to accent the more dense parts. The use of density to contrast sparse is great for creating the illusion of dynamics in a mix, within minimal dynamic range. The use of a limited dynamic range makes for better listening in more casual environments, where there tends to be external noise.
All 5 of these planes work together to create the illusion of space in a mix. One is no more important than any other in general, although one or two of the planes could prove to be more useful in a given mix. Not all are a requirement for a great mix either. For example, your mix should to be able to break down to mono, and still be a greqat mix.