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Author Topic:  Why mixes suck....
Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 11 Jul 2016 9:11 am     Reply with quote

I subscribe to this Recording Blog, a guy named Graham Cochrane and he sends out a lot of useful free information, almost daily. He has some paid material, but there is a ton of very informative stuff that is no charge. I find that he does a really good job of some of the more 'basic' stuff like using comps and EQ, along with more exotic techniques for recording/mixing.

I got this one today and he really hits the nail on the head. I don't know how many times I've agonized over a particular track, trying to understand why it wasn't sounding right, or laying in the mix the way I wanted.. then, I finally realized exactly what was wrong.. Smile

http://therecordingrevolution.us1.list-manage2.com/track/click?u=26de428510bb3e1d9fcb62b08&id=809c7c5e62&e=9d39dfd858
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 11 Jul 2016 2:22 pm     Reply with quote

Ha ! yes a very good " in your face " realization!

I especially love the line...

"The greatest mixes happened before the song was ever recorded. Which means, just like an artist painting a picture, or the photographer seeing that great scene to capture, the producer/ engineer etc. knew ahead of the studio session what the end result was going to be , the studio session was just the means to the end".

I don't like hearing the part that if I'm a sucky guitar player it will show up in the mix ! Sad Rolling Eyes

While I enjoyed the video and totally agree, I don't actually think that mixes suck because of the items he talks about, songs suck, musicians can suck, recordings suck but mixes are not actually those things.

My take on sucky mixes is because we don't understand Eq's, panning, roll-offs of Hi or Low freq etc..Eq's clashing, pans clashing, individual levels wrong, some levels overshadowing other levels, you know, the big picture, we don't know how to make things stand out on a track or we focus on one thing and that may even negate other things on the track.

Sadly, my wife had been telling me for years after I finished a track that maybe she sang on, she always said one or both of the following...

- yep that sounds like you

- yep I can hear the guitar

The better news for me is the last year or two I have spent a great deal of time studying the "mix" process and putting it into practice. They are getting better but still need to improve. It's a never ending journey once you step into that MIX world from the musician world.

It's hard to wear all them hats...
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Last edited by Tony Prior on 5 Jan 2017 2:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 11 Jul 2016 2:43 pm     Reply with quote

Yeah, and the part about 'mixing' while doing takes was also something I kind of related to. I know quite a few pros who subscribe to that approach..

Another topic he covered a while back that I thought was insightful was the idea that the most powerful tool in your box of mixing tricks was the volume fader. He implied that in the end that's what a good mix is, appropriate levels for all sources. Of course he didn't discount the value of carving out 'holes' with EQ and such.

He's also apparently a subscriber to the LCR panning philosophy, i.e. a source should be Hard Left, Center, or Hard Right, and that's where I might disagree a bit. I find those mixes kind of annoying generally, but I guess that's personal taste.

I'd agree that a 'song' or 'performance' isn't really part of a mix, but I think he's sort of generalizing as to why your 'mix' doesn't sound like a pro mix.. In other words, the mix isn't the problem. You can't polish a 'you know what'.. Smile

The title of the video is a bit misleading I guess.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 12:23 am     Reply with quote

doesn't matter, it's all good. ! I too do not agree with the LCR philosophy, to me that makes every song sound the same, but maybe he's talking about a bigger point.

A couple of years back when I was still working, Nashville was part of my territory, as you can imagine I did a whole lot of visiting while in town.

I stopped by several off Music Row studios where I kinda knew the engineers, mostly thru forums or Facebook. Spending even minimal time talking with those guys made me put the brakes on and change my entire process.

This is when I started spending more time seeking the tones I wanted to hear on the track before I hit the RED button, EQ's( especially) maybe some compression, some light effects etc...even reverbs and delays although I am real cautious with PRE tracking delays. Others are not. I have no problem printing to a track as this really lessens the burden on mixing and trying to find a good sound. Start with a good sound , what a concept ! One studio I was in , the engineer, played me some very recent tracks with both Brent Mason and Tommy White on them, I remarked how great the sound was, his reply, I didn't do anything, these are untouched with regard to EQ's , this IS their sound, why would I mess with it ? Basically said other than final levels in a mix and panning these two tracks are done.

Personally my biggest issue had always been low end mud, these days I have no problem cutting everything below 80 hz or even 100 hz , it just depends on how the final track sounds overall. Then the dreaded mid range dip or spike which can either kill or enhance the track . Now add that all streaming sites cut off at 16KHZ so that too is part of the equation. Over on the TDPRI forum ( telecasters) we had an on going discussion with regard to low end, mid range etc for easily 6 months, I learned a ton over there.

But, it all does get back to something the guy in the video does talk about, you gotta start with something good and not have the mindset of fixing it later.

When you hear something good while tracking or really like the way it sounds after tracking, then indeed you just saved yourself anguish when it comes time to put it all together. Why fix it if it's what you want ? Why not print to a track if it is indeed the sound you are looking for ? I don't much care if the track can't be changed because I printed to it. Others see it opposite but thats what makes this whole adventure fun, nobody's the same.

Each new session/project at home offers another opportunity to improve.

it's all good..well unless it's not ! Smile
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 4:40 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
But, it all does get back to something the guy in the video does talk about, you gotta start with something good and not have the mindset of fixing it later.


That's pretty much it right there... Smile
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 5:38 am     Reply with quote

We used to say: "good in = good out / sh*t in = sh*t out" Smile
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 7:35 am     Reply with quote

Tony Prior wrote:
doesn't matter, it's all good. ! I too do not agree with the LCR philosophy, to me that makes every song sound the same, but maybe he's talking about a bigger point.

A couple of years back when I was still working, Nashville was part of my territory, as you can imagine I did a whole lot of visiting while in town.

I stopped by several off Music Row studios where I kinda knew the engineers, mostly thru forums or Facebook. Spending even minimal time talking with those guys made me put the brakes on and change my entire process.

This is when I started spending more time seeking the tones I wanted to hear on the track before I hit the RED button, EQ's( especially) maybe some compression, some light effects etc...even reverbs and delays although I am real cautious with PRE tracking delays. Others are not. I have no problem printing to a track as this really lessens the burden on mixing and trying to find a good sound. Start with a good sound , what a concept ! One studio I was in , the engineer, played me some very recent tracks with both Brent Mason and Tommy White on them, I remarked how great the sound was, his reply, I didn't do anything, these are untouched with regard to EQ's , this IS their sound, why would I mess with it ? Basically said other than final levels in a mix and panning these two tracks are done.

Personally my biggest issue had always been low end mud, these days I have no problem cutting everything below 80 hz or even 100 hz , it just depends on how the final track sounds overall. Then the dreaded mid range dip or spike which can either kill or enhance the track . Now add that all streaming sites cut off at 16KHZ so that too is part of the equation. Over on the TDPRI forum ( telecasters) we had an on going discussion with regard to low end, mid range etc for easily 6 months, I learned a ton over there.

But, it all does get back to something the guy in the video does talk about, you gotta start with something good and not have the mindset of fixing it later.

When you hear something good while tracking or really like the way it sounds after tracking, then indeed you just saved yourself anguish when it comes time to put it all together. Why fix it if it's what you want ? Why not print to a track if it is indeed the sound you are looking for ? I don't much care if the track can't be changed because I printed to it. Others see it opposite but thats what makes this whole adventure fun, nobody's the same.

Each new session/project at home offers another opportunity to improve.

it's all good..well unless it's not ! Smile



I agree with Tony. I think a common mistake is that people won't let well enough alone. If a track sounds good.... leave it be. Too often, people feel like they have to load every track up with plugins, just because they have them, and the end result suffers.

RC
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 7:44 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
I think a common mistake is that people won't let well enough alone. If a track sounds good.... leave it be. Too often, people feel like they have to load every track up with plugins, just because they have them, and the end result suffers.


Agreed, and in fact I've seen Graham state that very same opinion many times in his online material. It's a common pitfall; just because you 'can' doesn't mean you 'should'.

He posted an article a few weeks ago on a similar vein regarding how long it takes to get a decent mix, the idea being that you once you reach a certain level of competence, you tend to get a mix 'done' pretty quickly, or at least 95% done. The longer you agonize and tweak, and experiment with plugs, etc., the more likely you are to make it worse, not better. I can certainly relate to that.
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 8:03 am     Reply with quote

Bill Terry wrote:
Quote:
I think a common mistake is that people won't let well enough alone. If a track sounds good.... leave it be. Too often, people feel like they have to load every track up with plugins, just because they have them, and the end result suffers.


Agreed, and in fact I've seen Graham state that very same opinion many times in his online material. It's a common pitfall; just because you 'can' doesn't mean you 'should'.

He posted an article a few weeks ago on a similar vein regarding how long it takes to get a decent mix, the idea being that you once you reach a certain level of competence, you tend to get a mix 'done' pretty quickly, or at least 95% done. The longer you agonize and tweak, and experiment with plugs, etc., the more likely you are to make it worse, not better. I can certainly relate to that.


Me too! I would be nice if mixing was like changing a flat tire and it's obvious when the job is finished, but with mixing we tend to keep trying to get it a little better.... I know I do.

RC
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werner althaus


From:
lincoln, NE
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 10:27 am     Reply with quote

What's the old saying? "A mix is never done, only abandoned."
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 10:37 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
A mix is never done, only abandoned.


Good one.. Smile
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 11:30 am     Reply with quote

Bill Terry wrote:
Quote:
A mix is never done, only abandoned.


Good one.. Smile


Bill -- it might all be because we're using the wrong brand of strings. Winking


RC
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 11:58 am     Reply with quote

Could be Rick, I've tried everything else with no luck.. Smile
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 5:03 pm     Reply with quote

I have a good friend who always used to say.." I have about a dozen mixes that aren't done yet".
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Emmons Steels, Fender Telecasters
Pro Tools 8 and Pro Tools 12
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 12 Jul 2016 5:04 pm     Reply with quote

Warren Huart always says that creativity will always trump technology.
He also quotes Quincy Jones a lot-
The three most important ingredients to a great recording:

1. The song
2. The song
3. The song
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 3:20 am     Reply with quote

it appears to me, getting back to the video way at the top, maybe the biggest issue with those among us that struggle with the final mix is that maybe we never really had a vision of what the song would sound like at the end , before we even started ! Each track leads us to a new direction. So perhaps each time we listen we tend to re-adjust where we are headed.


Regarding Quincy, he would never even start a session with a song that he didn't think was worthy so he was already 10 steps ahead in the process.

But us common home studio folks, maybe we are just tracking some of our original material or covers for NON retail so maybe the SONG itself is not the primary, maybe it's performance and final product . Which leads me to a great performance can be totally covered up and squashed by a terrible mix. So at the end of the day, even a lousy song needs a planned vision. We may all agree that the song is lousy but we may say, hey nice singing, playing and nice recording ! Exclamation
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werner althaus


From:
lincoln, NE
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 4:55 am     Reply with quote

Rick Schacter wrote:
Warren Huart always says that creativity will always trump technology.
He also quotes Quincy Jones a lot-
The three most important ingredients to a great recording:

1. The song
2. The song
3. The song


I personally believe that these type of musings are pretty useless and missing the point completely. I can think of many recordings that sound great yet the song is horrible. Ever listen to Foreigner's "Hot Blooded"? That must be one of the worst songs every written and performed yet I listen to it when it comes on the radio because it sounds so amazing from a recording/ producing standpoint. or take "she's a beauty" by the tubes, terrible music but man, what a production. or take James Brown, half the time there isn't even a song, just a riff yet the results are great. or take Neil Young who doesn't even plan out anything, he just hands every band member a sheet with the lyrics and rolls tape after one brief run-through. In reality there isn't one way and there aren't any mistakes.
I can just imagine the conversation between an artist and an up-and coming engineer trained by Youtubes' Warren Huart "The reason you don't like the mix is because your song sucks" haha. The reality is that many inferior songs receive the same production treatment and sound just as good as the most acclaimed songwriting-jewels.
BTW, admitting to be listening to foreigner et. al isn't easy Whoa!
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Bill Terry


From:
Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 5:16 am     Reply with quote

Straying off the original topic a bit, Werner has a valid point. I think musicians/engineers/producers listen to a song with a different 'ear' than your average non-musician listener.

If I listen to song that has steel guitar for example, I dissect the part to death with a critical ear, and that's also true of the guitar part or any of the instruments. I listen with a 'musicians' ear and great performances and/or production catches my ear every time, even if the song isn't necessarily something I like.

I'm not saying my wife is a prototypical listener by any means, but for her the song or the sonic 'image' it creates and the lyrics are what she hears, it's the sum, not the parts. Certainly a good song is central to that.
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 10:09 am     Reply with quote

Werner Althaus,

Apparently you and I disagree on what's considered to be a good song/artist.
Or at least I disagree with your opinion with the list of songs/artists in your previous post.

Bottom line is this:

If someone isn't happy with their recordings, then maybe they need to set their ego aside and stop blaming their gear,room,etc.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 12:42 pm     Reply with quote

good song ? huh ??

just look at the Wagon Wheel thread ! Laughing
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Emmons Steels, Fender Telecasters
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Rick Schacter


From:
Portland, Or.
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 2:25 pm     Reply with quote

Tony Prior wrote:
good song ? huh ??

just look at the Wagon Wheel thread ! Laughing


Tony, I agree with what you said in the Waggon Wheel thread.
I've definitely been guilty of complaining about songs that I'm tired of hearing/playing just like any other person who has played bar room gigs for years.
BUT I completely understand that if I accept a gig offered to me by the bar owner, my job is to make the customers happy.

If that means that I need to play Tush, Sweet Home Alabama, Cocaine or any other song that I'm burned out on, then so be it.
What's the harm in playing one of those songs if the customer requests it?

Play it, make the customer happy (sometimes there's a tip offered up too) then move on to whatever you might like to play.

As far as recording is concerned:

We all love the gear. Myself included.
But I also understand that if I don't like my recording, there's a pretty darn good chance that it isn't because I didn't use a Neve console.

Either you have a good song or you don't.
No amount of gear will fix a bad song.

Rick
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Alan Brookes


From:
Brummy living in the San Francisco Bay Area
Post Posted 13 Jul 2016 2:33 pm     Reply with quote

How many times have you played great and then found that you've been almost eliminated in the mixdown?

There's a train of thought that says that the musicians who took part should have no part in the mixdown because of conflict of interest. Let the bass player do the mixdown,for instance, and you could end up with a very prominent bass, and so forth. It's to be expected, because from where the bass player is playing, that's what he hears most and is most atuned to.

On the other hand, if you've written the song, worked out all the arrangements, and performed it yourself, you should have a say in what the final sound is like.

So, is the recording engineer working for the musicians, or on behalf of the musicians to come up with what he himself thinks is best?

It all comes down to the old maxim, "Mama knows what you need, but you know what you want...." Oh Well
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post Posted 14 Jul 2016 1:40 am     Reply with quote

Rick Schacter wrote:


Either you have a good song or you don't.
No amount of gear will fix a bad song.

Rick


I certainly agree but I also think that even the worst song ever written can have a good recording and a fine mix !

And of course trying to fix a bad song or a bad performance will never happen "later" by moving faders up and down etc...

I don't consider myself a pro by any means but I do know what fixes a bad song or bad performance.

1) scrap the song
2) re-record the bad performance


Don't settle because just because we can.
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Bud Angelotti


From:
Larryville, NJ, USA
Post Posted 14 Jul 2016 5:33 am     Reply with quote

It's also hard to be objective when it's your own baby. At least for me it is. When is it "good enough"?
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Rick Campbell


From:
Sneedville, TN, USA
Post Posted 14 Jul 2016 6:05 am     Reply with quote

Hey guys...... Let's keep in mind: part of the fun of having a home studio is the challenge and ability to experiment with all the different ways to record, mix, etc.... think how boring it would get, really fast, it you just turned on the machine and it automatically made everything sound as good as possible, with no means to play around with the mixing parameters. We're so lucky that we can have some of the same toys as the pro guys have at a price affordable to the average guy.

RC
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