Some Mixing Tips

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Harvey Gerst

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Fed,

Mixing is harder than it seems. Try this:

First of all, get away from the track for at least two days if you can. Avoid listening to anything you've done; listen to stuff you like by other people.

Ok, once you're ready to start mixing, try this method: Bring up just your wife's vocal track till it's at a comfortable loudness level. Now, slowly start bringing up the other tracks, one at a time. As you bring up each track, stay focused on the sound of her vocal track. If you bring up a track that seems to make her voice sound a little softer, shut the fader off for that track and go on to the next track, always listening to the vocal track as your reference, killing any track that makes her voice sound softer.

After you've gone thru all the tracks, you'll probably have 3 to 5 tracks shut off. Those are your problem tracks. You'll hafta eq, pan, compress, or reverb them, or leave them off altogether.

But listen closely to what you currently have going. Do you "REALLY" need "all" of those 5 missing tracks in the mix? Does the mix sound stronger without them? On the tracks you absolutely hafta have, put them where they don't cover the vocals, using any of the tools mentioned above. Then take about an hour break, get out of the studio, and come back later and listen to what you have. If you're satisfied, shut everything down, leaving all your settings in place.

Come back tomorrow and listen to it again. Tweak till you're happy, shut down, and repeat again the next day. The day you walk in and you're happy with what you did last night, is the day you have a finished mix.
 

Fed

New member
wow,
am I glad I stock around on this thread :)
Thanks Harvey. I wish I had someone with your expirience to sit with and whatch or whatever. Or better yet to record with.

My biggest (well maybe biggest) problem right now is that I am trying to have 3 or 4 hats on my head - musician, producer, arranger, and recording ingeneer. So it's very daughnting. But I love the music my wife writes. It's world class (if I may say that). She is well trained pianist and gifted musician. I want to record it and share it. The album I'm working on right now is not in english and as such probably not commercialy viable. So it's a labor of love if you will. But I also have my standards high. (Like I said no excuses :D)

What you said about keeping comming back to the mix is great.
I'm trying to do that. I'm in no hurry. Though it would be good to finish it this summer.

The good thing about your point about comming back to the mix as that I hope I can do a "good" (againg whatever it is) production and don't spend years of trial and error.

I was thinking after I have all tracks down to where I at least am happy with the arrangement, I could hire someone from local studios to take a listen. Do yo ever do that kind of stuff or get enquiries for that??? Is that even an option?


I don't know why I tell you all that. I guess I think if you have some background info on someone you are trying to help to, it helps you help them better. :)

Your suggestions are greatly appriciated. and again, thanks
cheers
 

Harvey Gerst

New member
Yes, I often get requests to listen to a mix and make suggestions, and I try to do that whenever I have the time and I think I can offer some intelligent suggestions.

It's always a good idea to make friends with your local studio, help out occasionally, or just hang out, when you have times. It often pays off with tips that you can use, or they'll loan you equipment once they know you, or who knows what else?

The biggest problem most new people have when they wear too many hats is understanding and accepting what's really important to the song.

Stripping the song down to the bare essentials and building up from there is not easy when you've invested a lot of time in arranging a particular part. But sometimes you just hafta stand back far enough to look at the song objectively and honestly decide whether that part is really helping the song, or is it just your ego talking?
 

JMarcomb

New member
harvey, you have much wisdom.

when I first saw your picture/avator ... I thought of the Luke skywalkers father :) You seem to come through like that character too. A man of much knowledge!

I have a quick question after reading your excellent posts.

This doesnt pertain to mics... but you seem to be the man to talk to.

I have a mix im working on and it contains 18 different tracks. Some tracks are just edits of cloned tracks.
Now.... ive 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!

Thanks for listening
 

Newest User

New member
Harvey Gerst said:
Well, if you wanna use the mechanic and his tools, consider this:

Ive been using the Box of Crayons analogy. Its good to have as many colors as possible, to be able to create the art as needed by the artist. There are so many colors to choose from, and not every color works on everything. There are harsh colors and smooth colors, and there are just plain ugly colors... I saw the list of Joe Chicarelli mic selection for artists he has worked with...Big old box of colors!


Peace,
Dennis
 

JMarcomb

New member
oh harvey ..Oops I thought you resemble Obi wan kanbie

I forgot sky walkers father is darth vader.. :eek:

obi-wan21.gif
 
So Harvey, does it pay better to record music for the darkside?

I actually dont see the resemblence between you picture and Obiwan.

So you recorded Linda ronstadt. She was a real Looker Back then.
 

Harvey Gerst

New member
Darrin,

No, I didn't record Linda Ronstadt, but I did hang out with her and the band a lot. That recording was done by Peter Asher with Dave Hassinger doing the engineering in Dave's studio in Hollywood, behind Cahuanga.
 

ozraves

New member
Harvey Gerst said:
The biggest problem most new people have when they wear too many hats is understanding and accepting what's really important to the song.

Stripping the song down to the bare essentials and building up from there is not easy when you've invested a lot of time in arranging a particular part. But sometimes you just hafta stand back far enough to look at the song objectively and honestly decide whether that part is really helping the song, or is it just your ego talking?

Harvey, you speak through experience and wisdom. In the last six months or so, I've started mixing other indie artists. This is a new experience for me as I didn't know I had a knack for mixing as I never got to park my butt in front of a set of nearfields for unbearably long periods of time.

Anyhow, the comment I always get after sending out a mix is: "Why did you take out...?" My answer is always the same: I loved that part by itself but it just didn't add anything to the song.

So far, after awhile, everyone is happy and they refer more people to me for mixing. But, there is that initial period when you can tell the artist is very uncomfortable with the whole thing b/c she didn't envision you'd be cutting out any part of her song.

Steve
www.piemusic.com
 

Harvey Gerst

New member
JMarcomb said:
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:

Mixerman said:

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.

Mixerman
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------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.

Harvey Gerst

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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.

Mixerman
 

JMarcomb

New member
awsome harvey!

This is the best information yet.
I printed this out... I will now use this as a baseline.

Thanks Alot!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

A1A2

New member
Harvey:

Have you ever worked/met any members from Pink Floyd? I have read some of your posts about working/hanging out with stars. It's always cool to hear the stories from someone than TV.


AL
 

ozraves

New member
Harvey, I have a more local question than Pink Floyd. I note you are near Denton, which is where I was a jazz studies major about 20 years ago. Have you had the occasion to record any jazz studies people from University of North Texas? How would you rate them against players in LA?

Steve
www.piemusic.com
 

Harvey Gerst

New member
Other than going to a couple of parties at Alan Parson's house in L.A., I doubt if I ever met any of Pink Floyd, or at least I wasn't aware of it if I did.

At one Alan Parson party, I spent most of the evening huddled in a corner by the hi-fi, listening to a test pressing of The Band's first album with Eric Clapton, trying to figure out what the single should be. We both agreed on "The Weight". But that's all I remember about that party.
 

Harvey Gerst

New member
ozraves said:
Harvey, I have a more local question than Pink Floyd. I note you are near Denton, which is where I was a jazz studies major about 20 years ago. Have you had the occasion to record any jazz studies people from University of North Texas? How would you rate them against players in LA?

Steve
www.piemusic.com
Well, Jeff Barnes of Brave Combo is my first call sax/"anything you blow thru" player. Amazing musician and a joy to work with.

Lee Tamboulian is a master keyboard player - any song, any style.

Most of the players I've used from UNT have been spectacular.
 

Pinky

and The Brain...
Harvey, stop making me feel so small, k?? :p

And thanks for sharing your experience in such detail with us, I know everything self taught or through the shared knowledge of the music industry, huddled around a mixing board or in a "jam room."

Hats off to you for making a living in music production, it's still just a dream for me...
 

ausrock

New member
The unsurpassed BIG PINK. I think I just about wore that vinyl out even before their second album was released................Harvey, while I couldn't argue with you about The Weight, I think Lonesome Suzie was my favourite on that album. Speaking of which did you ever hear the Blood Sweat and Tears version?

Some of my prefered listening these days is Robbie Robertson's solo work.

:cool:
 

Shailat

New member
Something to think about

A mic is a tool. It has to sound good be it a $20 or a $2000 mic.
Everybody knows that.

But something that almost never comes up...........will a $20 mic hold out with use EVEN when used on Weekends only ?!?.

Just becuase somebody records at home does that mean he wont get fustrated if at a time of a personal need the mic might not hold out. Some dont mind to part from their mic for a month to get fixed...or to go out and spend another day shoping for a new one or arguing with the company over was it my fault or theirs...or worse...some might not even notice a problem. but many others would rather pay more money but know that when needed it will work.
If I told somebody pay me more and I will save you time and aggrevation, many would prefer do dish out the extra money.

If budget mics are as rock solid as well made mics then they are a steal. But from my life experience you get what you pay for.
Every time I think I'm saving money and going the cheap way.....
I end up buying the more expensive product at the end after the cheapo breaks down.
I got suckered into buying a cheap fan. It looked solid....It worked great....it blew air like a classic fan...and it had a great modern shape.....3 weeks ago ( after 3 months of use) it stoped working for good.

Having heard from 3 different people who have bought some of these budget mics and ther stories (like the mic came with problems..I sent it back ..It came back fixed after one month ! 3 weeks later it broke down again this time a different problem.....one of these stories is from a member here (and if he wants to come foward he can) who told me his !. He isnt sending it back already, problems or not........)

When and if these budget mics will have a record of quality over the years I will buy a few myself but till then I would rather wait and spend the extra bucks to have a peace of mind.
A tool that cant hold up to normal use isnt even worth $20 in my opinion. Yes......$2000 mics can break down as well but they have a track record and NO $2000 mic will survive in the market with a bad track record. They will sell a few and once the name gets out , they are history.
 

Randy Yell

New member
I don't have anything to add really but I just wanted to say that this has evolved into an excellent thread and is a fine example of what sharing information can be.
Harvey,I chuckled a bit about your stating that if you met any members of Floyd you weren't aware of it.Reminds me of the saying"if you can remember the sixties you weren't really there..."
 

Newest User

New member
Harvey Gerst said:
(MixerMan, who gets paid big bucks to do this, will hopefully jump into this thread at some point.)

I think mixerman might argue about the big bucks for his work.



I think it would be extremely valuable to have "mixerman" come here and do some "posting" Ive read quite abit about some of his methods and have alot of respect for him. I think his ideas on what a mastering engineer should do have helped me view my mixes differently. Im becoming alot more agressive with compressing the stereo buss ;)


Peace,
Dennis
 
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