The only hard/fast rule I have ever found with mixing is…
There are no hard/fast rules. If it sounds right and translates to a variety of systems well it is right. Do things that everyone tells you not to do. Make EQs and comps provide you the “wrong” sound. Obliterate things by moving controls way too liberally to find out what they are doing. Push things until they break. Then you’ll understand what makes the median area of use so crucial. You can never find the ‘sweet spot’ unless you’ve heard both extremes of what a plugin/effect/instrument can do.
Mixing is all about listening. Become extremely good at picking out subtle distortion, stereo field problems, small background noises, unwanted responses from processor usage. Have a variety of tracks that you love to death to listen to and listen to them over and over and over until you can determine to some degree what makes them so delicious. Be analytical and almost critical of everything you hear that doesn’t immediately astound you. Try to pinpoint the sonic differences of commercial songs that “do it for you” or sound flat.
Find an assortment of tools/processors that you enjoy the sound of and become intimately familiar with how they respond to different types of dynamic material.
At the end of the day… mixing is really an art form. Technically, it’s pretty much impossible to say what makes something sound right other than using really abstract approaches. It’s really a feel thing. You only really know it by becoming near-obsessively familiar with it.
I see you’re mixing in Logic. Here’s a few of my thoughts on mixing in Logic: Summing Engine – Logic doesn’t sum tracks together very well, or (to be more specific) very clearly. Usually isn’t a big deal for 5 – 10 tracks, or pieces that aren’t very dense.
I hate to do this but your dead wrong about this:http://www.image-line.com/support/FLHelp/html/app_audio.htm
Please everyone paste that link anywhere someone perpetuates the “DAWs have a sound” myth. It’s really destructive and just fosters more and more blatant ignorance based on a total lack of understanding of software code.
Hey Josh, you make a lot of valid points, but I’m not sure it’s really the point of the original post of the thread. Your post – while accurate – is probably a bit deeper than what is desired here! There’s just certain things you probably should/shouldn’t do when mixing orchestral / orchestral+electronic elements because it just would never work and these techniques have been proven for many years, which is why there are only a handful of ‘go-to’ mix engineers who actually know how to handle and balance the orchestral sound WELL in a recording/studio environment. (And even then for film/TV purposes, it can still get screwed up by a terrible final sound/music mix – but that’s another story!)
To expand on this and your statement of ‘no hard/fast rules’, that’s also a bit like saying there are an unlimited number of ways to set up microphones to record an orchestra. That’s true, but most of them will sound terrible – UNLESS – you are going for a certain effect, in which case, the only limit is your imagination. Generally to get a good sound for an orchestral recording, there are a limited number of ways to achieve a good sound – and that’s assuming you have a good room to record in, in the first place. While mic setup for recording is not really an art form, it is still dependent on so many variables, and there are certain conventions that you can follow (or at least start off with) that will generally help improve the sound.
To expand on this even further, there are no hard/fast rules to writing film music. However, 99% of the time you’re never going to have a music track blaring over dialogue, but if it’s something the director wants and has a good effect, then of course it’s right.
I think tacomusic’s original post assumed we’d done all the breaking and tinkering, and are just looking to get something finished and wanted a quick crib list of things to try and help improve the mix before getting lost in a sea of plugins.
For example, conventional wisdom would say that you would never put a massive extreme bass boost on a flute, because all you’d just be gaining is the noise floor of the room it was recorded in and some additional vibrations which would sound completely unnatural if boosted, but maybe for that specific project/piece you’d want that. But for the vast majority of commercial purposes, you’d just never do that. I know that if I put a high pass filter on all my instruments that play in a high register, I’ll be making small incremental improvements to the low end of my mix that will make things sound less muddy. It always works. There has never ever been a time, for example, when I’ve thought ‘Yes, I definitely need more bass on that piccolo, that will really help clean up the mix!’
Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but I hope you see my point.
So yes, I suppose there are no hard/fast “rules”, there are just things that hundreds of engineers do time and time again – which – in the context of this music (and the original post) usually benefits the music as a whole. I think tacomusic’s original intent was to address the mixing of music for film/TV purposes, and your response – while not wrong at all – might be a discussion for a different thread! Remember, a lot of us – probably you as well – are doing the composing/mixing/producing/mastering/getting the coffee all by ourselves, and a lot of us need to get stuff done to quick deadlines, and many of the tips in this thread, while not hard/fast rules – are generally good things to try first – and then if they don’t, then it’s time to start breaking things.
Honestly, a lot of the mixing problems with this genre of music start with bass management, and then even before that, at how the piece is arranged/orchestrated. I’ve mixed other composers’ work a few times and they said ‘How did you make it clearer?’ and I respond ‘I deleted about 25% of your tracks that weren’t adding anything to the music!’. After a despondent look, they’ll usually realize (not all of the time though) that nothing ‘important’ was lost in the music. Which sort of leads me to my final point, when mixing (especially if you’re mixing someone else’s stuff) if you don’t understand what the point of the music is, you’ll never achieve the desired effect anyway. That’s where joshhunsaker (and others) on this thread make good points, in that mixing is a creative process and subjective process, because it requires amongst other things – an ability to interpret the music. However, like most artistic endeavours, it also requires a thorough technical understanding which I think is what this thread is focused on!
Of course, which tips on this thread you decide to take I guess are subjective! So there, I’ve just contradicted my entire post . It would be fun to do a blind test of 1) composers and separately 2) non-composers to see which mix they think sounded better to see if anything DOES actually make a difference or if the whole thing is just a crapshoot and we shouldn’t worry about it so much.
Mixing is such a huge topic that we could have an entire subforum dedicated to it in my opinion, but we don’t. Fortunately that’s where Gearslutz and VI-Control can often come in handy!
Yes, I definitely need more bass on that piccolo, that will really help clean up the mix
Haha! I knew you were holding back your true techniques Gareth, I must try that one some day. Out of interest, and this is a question for everyone who has contributed to this post not just Gareth, would anyone mind if I did package this up into a tutorial? That would include adding the different mixes by the way.
Josh, thanks for your comments, I can see your point about creative mixing as well. Interesting link you pasted as well, I’ll have a thorough read of that later today.
http://www.image-line.com/support/FLHelp/html/app_audio.htm Please everyone paste that link anywhere someone perpetuates the “DAWs have a sound” myth. It’s really destructive and just fosters more and more blatant ignorance based on a total lack of understanding of software code.
I actually used to use FL Studio all the time! It’s fun program.
Anyways, I’ve actually seen your link before and heard that argument as well. I know that on some level it doesn’t make any sense for these things to sound different. And maybe ‘sound’ isn’t the best word for what is perceived as different. But after doing enough tons of mixes for myself, and others, in logic and pro tools, I can tell you there is something different going on between these programs.
The things that are different are subtle to some degree, especially to those who don’t have a good ear for mixing yet. But in my purely un-scientific opinion, if you take a full frequency range 15 to 20 track mix and play it back in both programs, I bet you’ll find that there is a difference. If you haven’t gone through that experience time and time again, I don’t expect you to agree. However those who have, tend to agree that there is a difference. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that there is difference.
In all honesty, you could be 100% right but since human ears aren’t exactly the best scientific instrument, there will always be difference of opinion. I don’t know anything about coding a program. I just know what sounds different.
I’m curious though, have you compared mixing tracks in your DAW to mixing in PT? I mention PT specifically because that program seems to provide the clearest difference to the others. I’ve mixed in Logic as well as FL Studio, and couldn’t perceive any difference until I mixed in PT. If you have used all of these programs extensively and think everything is still the same between them, you might be the first person I met who thinks that.
That is just a myth and placebo effect.
As for the point of the thread, anyone who is getting started should check the “5 Minutes to a Better Mix” series. Here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Enhcve9Lblc
There are two set of 30 videos, there are incredible techniques there, though still explained with no complex vocabulary, so very easy to follow up.
Lots of great information here from Dave Pensado:http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=CLWhTObC_KxCQ&feature=plcp
This book is really helpful and a good read;http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mixing-Engineers-Handbook-Mix-audio/dp/0872887235/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349206801&sr=1-1
Hello guys! This is my first post in the forums and I though I could contribute here I’ve been mixing for about almost 20 years now and I can tell I’m still learning. Mixing starts in my opinion with composition itself withith a good arrangement regarding the frequency balance of instruments used, and your ears instinct is very important.
Also is fundamental to have a flat response hearing system within a flat response acoustic enviroment. If this is not possible you can listen to your favorite records in the enviroment and listening position you are going to mix and learn by heart how they sound in that enviroment. While mixing always make an A B comparison between your work and any reference record you really like. Monitor your final mixes in different sound systems. Always helps a lot to listen to your final mixes in very cheap loudspeakers…you’ll be amazed how many mistakes you can spot that way in your mixes.
Loudness balance of instruments is important as well. You have to find the perfect volume level so don’t mix too loud or too quiet. For anyone interested you can take a look at Flectcher-Munson curves theory. Give a rest to your ears evey hour or so and then come back to your mix…sometime you want to start from 0 again
Regarding loudness and balance, compression and limiting are very important but don’t abuse them. Nowadays we listen to a lot of commercial mixes going into a loudness war very annoying to the ear but it depends on what sonic sensation you want to achieve and the style of music you are working on.
Reverb is nice but use carefully because a little too much can clutter your mixes!
There are lots of websites and magazines very practical for home studio mixers. Personally my favorite is Sound On Sound magazine with very practical production tips and tutorials. Some articles are kind of difficult to read if you are not an audio engineer but others are amazingly simple and practical,
I’m not what I would call a good mixer but always try to improve in one way or another listening to the most awfull and strange tips you get from engineers sometimes ,
Probably all those aspects have been mentioned before but these are my two cents!