Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?

Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby rhythmjones » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:11 am

Hello,

For your ears only is a recording/mix I've done of our new song. It has a preliminary mastering job done on it too. I'd like to hear any of your thoughts. I'm mostly concerned with how the vocals blend with the instrumentals. But I'll take any feedback.

Thanks!

https://soundcloud.com/rhythmjones/the-forest-final-mix-candidate-1/s-GA4Zn
- Mitch

http://www.electricorchids.com
https://soundcloud.com/electricorchids
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby øøøøøøø » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:09 pm

Hey! Here's what I hear--

I like how the guitars are nice and wide, and I think the guitars' mid-forwardness works well out on the sides like that.

There's something going on with the bass that might not be working in your favor-- a lot of energy around the region of, maybe, 90-150 cycles that's making the bass really jump out on some notes and disappear on others. My hunch is that your monitoring/room might not be telling you the truth in that region, or perhaps the bass performance/recording itself was problematic in this way. If you're using any EQ boosts on the bass below 400 cycles, I'd rethink that. If the bass track is itself weird or uneven, perhaps try to see what a moderately aggressive compressor will accomplish-- try a fairly fast release time or you could make the problem worse.

The mud-ball from the bass is interfering with your balances. When the bass hits its lowest C, it's at a sensible level. When it goes to the IV chord F (i.e. when the vocal enters) it's way louder, and I believe this is central to your difficulty placing the vocal.

The vocal sort of feels simultaneously too quiet and too loud-- a common affliction that in this case is directly related, I believe, to the issue with the bass, as well as how that's impacting the rest of the balances. As an aside, there's also a bit of distortion on the vocal in places, and you could either try to repair that with RX (or similar), or "make it a feature" by giving the vocal a bit more aggressive of a treatment. The vocal itself is a bit uneven dynamically, and therefore might benefit from such a thing-- But we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit... let's back up for starters.

I think the bass thing is the first thing to sort out-- listen again to your mix. Is the kick drum audible? When the bass is playing, mostly it's not-- and that's interfering with your mix's ability to feel punchy and exciting.

The drums at the end sound rather roomy with a LOT of hi hat, which is compounding the above issue, most likely. I'm not hearing a lot from the close mics, if there are close mics. Depending how much flexibility you gave yourself in the tracking, that might be another thing to look at. The spot mics on kick and snare (if they exist) are there to give you punch and definition, which, in a track this dense, would be sight for sore eyes.

I would really start with the relationship between the drums and bass, with as good of monitoring as you can muster. The "triad of power" between kick, snare and vocal seems a bit out of balance, with kick disappearing and snare sounding too quiet/restrained to really communicate "high energy." If I were mixing this, my goal would be to have the snare "tug" at the vocal, or "punch a hole" in the vocal with each hit, to create the illusion that the snare was really loud and that the vocalist was aggro as hell and screaming over it. But right now, the vocal is instead fighting with the bass, but only in spots... and that doesn't really create the same illusion.

"Roomy" drums can create two illusions-- distance and size. "Distance" translates as "far away, puny, small" and "size" translates as "really fking loud in a really big space." I'm getting more of the former than the latter here, and that's partly to do with balances, and partly to do with the relatively-small room it sounds like the drums were recorded in. Imagining this band onstage playing, it sounds like the drummer is playing soft.

Try muting everything but drums and vocal and just balancing those two. Make the kick tough and punchy. Make the vocalist fight the snare drum a little bit. Wrestle with the sounds Then frame the rest of your mix around that. Be careful of that keyboard in the middle-- it can also fight the vocal. Pay attention to what's happening around 1k-3k.. that's where your vocal power and projection and intelligibility live.

I would pay much greater attention to the vocal dynamics-- both macro- and micro-dynamics. Macro-dynamically, there are words that are really jumping out, and words that are hard to hear. I would use some form of pre-insert automation ("clip gain" on pro tools, for instance) to even out some of the undesirable jumps in level (a word here or there) before it even touches the compressor(s). Then, in terms of micro-dynamics, I may compress the vocal a bit more aggressively than you have here. Something 1176-ish set with a very fast release and a medium attack, just tapping on the peaks, would be appropriate for the style to bring out a bit more energy and aggressiveness. In addition, AFTER that in the chain, I might try an LA-2a or variable-mu style compressor (or plugin, if that's what you've got)--something with a softer knee doing a little bit more gain reduction, just to try and thicken up the tone a little and maybe do that last little bit of leveling.

Now as we mentioned earlier, the vocal has some distortion on the peaks... it's a distraction as-presented and sounds like a "flaw," but we might want to work with this and make this bug into a feature. Perhaps set up a parallel chain with a Level-Loc style super-aggressive crunchy limiter (the Soundtoys Devil-Loc is a cheapo plugin one), and blend that in underneath the main vocal. That will give you a bit more "cut" in that midrange (to get you past that pesky keyboard... which I'd probably move over to the side somehow if I could), which would allow you to balance the snare louder... it would also provide more leveling when blended in. If you don't have a distorto-compressor plugin, you could try smashing it with an 1176 (all buttons in-ish) and/or perhaps some distortion from Decapitator or similar.

I know that's a lot, and I could armchair quarterback some more, if you like, but we'll leave it there for now. I really hope that was helpful!

Cheers
Last edited by øøøøøøø on Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby Ben17e » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:17 pm

Edit: Just saw the post above - lots of good stuff there too.

Hi Mitch,
Overall, I think this is a nice raw sounding track. Pretty neat tune too! Some general comments:
1. I think that everything is a little overly dry overall. A little delay on the vox for example. I think just about everything could use a little reverb or something.
2. The synth sound is maybe the biggest victim of point 1. The lower octave also sounds a little funky to me but thats a preference thing.
3. I think the lead vocal is also too far out front. It can be brought back without getting lost. If you feel like it is, try boosting between 1-2k maybe.
4. Some of the harmonies could be more "Gelled" together. Not sure how you are mixing them, but sending them all to a bus and compressing together a little.
5. Personal preference, but I like a little more punch in my drums. Sometimes parallel comp helps with this where you run a bus of the drums through comp and the individuals with less comp which retains punch but also gives you that squashed sound. I like a bit more brightness on individual drums as well.

What DAW are you using? If you're using Logic I would be interested in trying a mix of the tune just for fun if you wouldn't mind. Not saying mine would be better but I enjoy doing that kind of thing! If not and you'd like to share audio files, I could try it from them. Just looking for something fun to mix for my own practice more than anything. If you none of the above, thats cool too just throwing it out there!
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby rhythmjones » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:27 pm

Thank you both for such thoughtful advice. And thanks for taking the time to do that.

Brad, it's four mics on the drums. 2 overhead a snare/kit mic and a kick mic. I'll look into some of the bass guitar issues. Looking back, didn't spend very much time on the bass.

Ben, I am using Logic. If you wanna PM me your deets I'll send you the unmixed Logic file.

Thanks again!
- Mitch

http://www.electricorchids.com
https://soundcloud.com/electricorchids
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby øøøøøøø » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:40 am

rhythmjones wrote:Brad, it's four mics on the drums. 2 overhead a snare/kit mic and a kick mic.


Good! This gives us something to work with. There's quite a bit of room sound in the overheads, then-- they sound like they may have been positioned relatively high?

What is the kick mic like? Which microphone, positioned where (in, out, front no hole, batter side, etc?) Lots of spill from the rest of the kit, or relatively isolated? etc.

It sounds suspiciously like the drummer may have been playing the kick relatively soft, making it harder to get the the kit to 'dance' and sound exciting and strong. There are problem-solving strategies we can employ here-- the most important thing is "do not take no for an answer." The mixer's job is to find a way, no matter what we're presented with.

If the close mics are... "not so good," then there are options. One is to use dynamics processing to try and pull out some excitement... compressor with medium-slow attack and medium-fast release, adjusted critically by ear, to get a bit more transient on the front. The idea is to just let the front of the transient sneak by, but have the compressor clamp down on the rest of the hit, then turn the whole thing up with the compressor's output. It requires a bit of practice to hone your ear to be able to get this happening in the right way. I go over it in this article, with examples, under "transient modification part 1."

I also really love the SPL Transient Designer... they make a plugin which I assume does the same thing (probably just as well as the hardware). It kind of does all the hard work for you, giving you knobs to adjust "attack" and "sustain" of something like a kick drum.

Another possibility-- and some people (for whatever reason) have a quasi-religious moral objection to this-- is to sample-augment. If you're willing, you can get an appropriate-sounding kick sample (or even the best-sounding clean kick hit from the actual session) to blend in slightly under the original by using a plugin like Slate's "trigger," the old Drumagog, etc. This doesn't have to make the drums sound 'fake'-- it can be done in a way that's undetectable in the context of the mix, but just adds body, tone, attack, and (when desired) dynamic consistency (which can really come in handy in the case of a drummer whose dynamics aren't, shall we say, "intentional"). Again, it's about "not taking no for an answer." Whatever means necessary to make the music a success.
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby Larry Mal » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:43 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Another possibility-- and some people (for whatever reason) have a quasi-religious moral objection to this-- is to sample-augment. If you're willing, you can get an appropriate-sounding kick sample (or even the best-sounding clean kick hit from the actual session) to blend in slightly under the original by using a plugin like Slate's "trigger," the old Drumagog, etc. This doesn't have to make the drums sound 'fake'-- it can be done in a way that's undetectable in the context of the mix, but just adds body, tone, attack, and (when desired) dynamic consistency (which can really come in handy in the case of a drummer whose dynamics aren't, shall we say, "intentional"). Again, it's about "not taking no for an answer." Whatever means necessary to make the music a success.


I haven't heard the mix, but I read Brad's post talking about the drummer being light on the kick, and I immediately thought about putting a sample under it to augment. You don't need Slate's Trigger or Drumagog, either, you can do it quickly and easily within Logic:

https://support.apple.com/kb/PH12927?locale=en_US
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Re: Would You Guys Mind Critiquing This Mix

Postby rhythmjones » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:01 am

Thanks! I didn't know Logic had this feature. It's very similar to how their "create sample track" feature works.
- Mitch

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