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Thread: Mix 3 - Diggin In

  1. #1
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    Default Mix 3 - Diggin In

    Well, as a Mix Project vet I thought I would try and start us off. I know we haven't heard the other mixes or know what others have done ... but I think it would be interesting to hear how the front end of this project went for everyone.
    This is what I know. I'd say most were limited on time. I think this is good and bad. I think we all had to manage our time on this to get the best results we could. I'm not too sure one will ever feel they had enough time to work with these "Mix" projects. With that said, I think it would be interesting to talk about the opproach everyone took to the project. I'll start ...

    Upon first listen I felt the song lacked a lot of focus. The song was real long and never really got to the point for me. Kinda like a lot of foreplay and no action. I desided to edit the song in such a way as to give the band a little more focus. So narrow down that the sound of the band is and what the song was doing. As the song was recorded it felt like a buffet of sonic stuff. I went for the Emril "BAM!!!!!!" approach. Having done more radio and single mixing, I though we should get to the point a little quicker. So I tried to present the song to the listener in a way that it would be given to them as an experience. Much like fine dining.
    To make this happen I edited a lot. And edited more. And edited a lot more. I felt some things were getting in the way of others. For example, I understand what they were trying to do with the BVG's and harmony stuff but it just didn't click for me. It felt more distracting and I lost the point of the lyrics. I also lost focus of the lead singer. I did my best at trying to capture the feel of the harmonies yet make enough space for the lead vocal. I also found the performance of the harmony part not to steller. At some points the harmony even was singing the wrong words. Like a him over them type of thing or an we over they. So you gotta clean that stuff up. I also couldn't get into the violin stuff. It was placed in places where it should have been real smooth and rich and I just didn't feel that. In stead I went with the lyric which reflected more on day dreaming. So I came up with what I called the "dream sequence". The idea was to throw off the tempo of the eight count and do some vocal phrase repeating along with some pre phrase intro action. As in repeat a phrase and then pre phrase an intro line much like Lepplin Whole Lotta Love but in this case it was a drum intro. So it opened up the song and makes the listener loose tempo for a moment. SO rather than an eight count it sounds like an end to a song and an intro back in. Maybe not something I would do for a paid gig .. but hey, you can take some risks with this project ... right???
    I also tried to book end the song a little more. I flew around some of the feedback stuff and clean guitar. I also moved a lot of the other guitars around to make things bigger.
    On the mix side I came up real short. I only gave myself about six hours to do this whole thing which I would have though would have been plenty. Well, I ended up editing for six hours. When I was able to get back to the song a few days later I only had like three hours to actually mix. So I wasn't too proud of the mix though I felt the editing helped the song a lot. All in all I think the feel is there but most will probably hear the mix could have used a little more time.
    I had a real hard time with the kick drum. It was ... lets say, not at all what I would have liked. I tried some Drumagog action but didn't find it could track the way I would have liked. It was a real busy kick. My first impression of the song was that it didn't groove too much. More prog rock feel. Getting that feel back into the song was important to me. Just to make it feel good. So anyway, the kick. Nothing really worked other than a ton of EQ, compression, and dynamic EQ. I also found that flipping the phase help a ton.
    As for the rest of the drums ... I think they were recorded with CAD mics. Well? ... Hmmm ... Well. Learned I didn't like CAD's too much. The overheads were real spitty up top. Everything cut nicely but not much tone. Could have been the kit or the mics. You never really know. I thought the lead vocal was recorded great. Not too many songs you can get away with no effects in parts.
    In all ... a very talented group with some good sounds. Best to them and I think it will be interesting to hear back from them as they listen to all the mixes. After all ... its about making them happy and the people who cut the check.

    Devin DeVore
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  2. #2
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    I worked with the arrangement as it was and tried to get a decent mix. I spent about 4-5 hours on it. All I edited in the time domain was the space between intro and when the drums/harmonics kick in.

    I felt like all the tracks were already compressed quite a bit. And this made my work faster in the sense that I did not dare to compress anymore. But, I really like the art of compression (not that I'm better than the average Joe at it) and I felt painted into a corner. Vocals were an exception and I did compress and add a touch of L1. I agree that the drums were a bit sonically lacking and required a good dose of EQ. But I don't recall compressing them at all. Same with the bass (holy midrange batman). EQ here there and everywhere. I'll give the details later...

    Looking forward to hearing your re-arrangement Devin.

  3. #3
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    Devin
    I too felt the arrangement, needed work and I did a little, but I didn't have time to do any real in depth stuff. What made it it worse was that I upgraded from Nuendo 1.6 to Nuendo 3 and it's having a hard time on my system so I kept losing things I tried to do, plus the look and feel of #3 is a bunch different from #1. I'm still having difficulty with stuff not saving and irregular sample rate things, so I kind of went so far and stopped. That said, I don't mind what I have so far if you ignore some timing that still needs to be tightened up.
    It seems to me that there was too much input on the tracking and maybe that resulted in a lack of direction. I feel this could be a great 3 and half minute song, but I'd never take the time to edit it that way, I'd prefer to retrack. The way I usually work, that is with mixing what I track, if I'm in a producing role I try to track the song as close as possible to the final vision.
    I also wonder if the band cut their tracks individually rather than together.
    I know Ryan told me that the bass player mixed his track down from several sources to the stereo file we now have, I wonder if he soloed the track and made it sound good to his ear instead of considering it in the mix.
    I also agree with Devin about the sound of the drums through the mics that were used. I did resort to Drumagog and I know what you mean about drumagog having trouble with the busyness of the track. I just ignored this, to a point and my drum tracks have some false triggers for sure, but to my ear they sound better, lol.
    I too did in the violin parts in some attempt the focus more on the strong point, which to my mind is the vocal and lyric. As an aside, the one thing about mixing something you didn't track, that is cool, is that you have no vested interest in the various parts and it's easier to be ruthless. It's also cool to not have to see the puppy eyes of the player who's part you cut, lol.
    I think every player here is great and the sound is for the most part very good, a bigger mic closet may have helped add some more sonic choices. I agree the vocal is very good and the back grounds maybe not so much ;-). I felt they were needed in some places so I tried to make them more of a vocal pad, to make a pour analogy. Anyway I'm off to listen to everyone's mixes and steal their best ideas ;-). take care Logan

  4. #4
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    Well ... so far it seems like we are seeing damage control as the common method of mixing. I did feel the group could have used a good producer to focus the song a little more. There is some good talent there.

    Devin DeVore
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  5. #5
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    I thought we weren't supposed to fool with the arrangement so I only edited the intro's dead air, harmony vox some and feedback electric.

    This song was the first mix since I switched from DP4 on a Mac to Nuendo 3 on a PC so...I wasted alot of time figuring out software...etc.

    I didn't have hardly any time to work on it so I compressed the main vox pretty heavy(instead of automation moves). In fact, I think I smashed everything pretty hard. The screaming BGVs at the end were very sloppy and I didn't have time to edit those so they're left pretty raw.
    Overall, I went for a pop radio mix.

    I didn't quite get into the idea that the artists were going for. There were alot of guitars, but they're parts didn't make complete sense to me and neither did some of the BGVs. On the other hand, I did enjoy the violin twist(sort of "Jars of Clay" style) and milked them with verb and slight delays for a faint swirling effect. Somewhere after 3 min. there's a spot where the vox gets real intimate so I dried out all the verbs/fxs on everything and then kicked them all back in about 2-4 beats later.

    As a whole, I had fun using this mix to fool around with my new plugins/setup and I've heard a whole lot worse recordings.
    Thanks for letting me try this out!
    Aaron

    P.S. I'm a self taught recording/mixing guy so don't take my opinions for anything worth while.

  6. #6
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    First of all, you guys are all right on! I sit here reading your comments and I'm just nodding my head, "uh huh. Yep. Uh huh.. uh huh..."

    One thing that I've learned from this is that *ALL* of the shortcuts you take while tracking become apparent no matter how well you try to hide 'em. The small mic closet. The lack of a good drum room. The lack of any more than 8 tracks recorded at once (to answer Logan's question, yeah, we all tracked individually). The lack of a producer. Yes, you are all right on. This is a very cool lesson.

    Devin: Can't wait to hear the edit! I think a radio/single mixing engineer is exactly what we needed. Back up vox on most songs were just done by me (lead vocalist), but yeah, on this song, our drummer did the b-ups since he did them live. He's a great musician but, as of this recording, had a lot to learn and develop in his voice. Heck, so do I, for sure.

    I'd love to hear more of your comments on the kick drum; what you'd want, what you expect, etc. You're also right about groove! Drummer is very influenced by technical drummers like Dana Carey (Tool) and stuff and we had a difficult time getting him to just groove in 4/4.

    grekim: No, we didn't use compression on any of the input signal chains. I think I gave Logan all of the raw tracks. Could the MOTU 896's preamps give this "compressed" sound going straight in? I do know when I use a dedicated preamp (I owned a Focusrite for awhile), it sounded more open and airy than the MOTU 896.

    Logan: I would prefer to retrack it too. Maybe we will. The recording is a couple of years old and we've all grown as musicians since then. I'm sure I'll get a lot of ideas from Mixtravaganza and I'll have to take all of your publishing companies names and give you all credits on the song. Ha ha.

    I'd love to hear other peoples' comments on this. Don't worry, no "sad puppy dog eyes" here. You guys can tear us apart! A few of us have moved, so we'll be looking for a drummer and/or bassist in the L.A. area to continue the band anyway. We can only benefit and grow from your comments. Thanks a ton. Can't wait to hear everything. -ryan

  7. #7
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    "No, we didn't use compression on any of the input signal chains. I think I gave Logan all of the raw tracks. Could the MOTU 896's preamps give this "compressed" sound going straight in? I do know when I use a dedicated preamp (I owned a Focusrite for awhile), it sounded more open and airy than the MOTU 896."

    This is a great question. It is possible that you were pushing the analog components of the 896 to its limit. Everything was obviously tracked screaming hot. Or, maybe more likely, you may have been maxing out your preamps and even clipping somewhere you did not notice. A look at the waveforms might help. I definitely got a sense that the transients on the drums were compromised.

    I still had fun with it and did my best to make it rock like it is supposed to!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by grekim
    Everything was obviously tracked screaming hot.
    Really? Man, that's AMAZING to me that you could hear that! I thought we were supposed to record using all of that headroom and get levels pretty hot. Is that something that's true for analog but not necessarily true for digital recordings?

    Quote Originally Posted by grekim
    Or, maybe more likely, you may have been maxing out your preamps and even clipping somewhere you did not notice.
    That did happen a few times. I never really needed to manually edit the files because I never heard any clicks or pops. But yeah, in retrospect, we shouldn't have pushed the preamps that hard.

    Since we were college students at the time and didn't have a nice room (and you can't really make a lot of noise in an apartment), the drums were recorded very dry in a small basement bedroom with the mattress up against the wall and stuff. It made for very poopy drum sounds, I admit.

  9. #9
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    Hey Ryan, I'm not sure how the MOTU 896 is calibrated. But, it's probably such that full scale (0 dB on the 896) is around +20 or +22 dBu. When your 896 records sample of 0 dB (full scale), the actual electrical wave can be even 6 dB hotter because you never record the actual peak of the soundwave. So, anything that hits 0 dBfs (even without overs) can be thought of as even hotter in your preamps. You could have been pushing your preamps +25 on the kick drum. I'm not sure what you used for a preamp, but I'd only trust my Millennia at that level. That's the analytical reason why I say you may have been clipping/compressing in your preamps. But, my ears tell me the peaks are compromised. Not enought bite and attack in the drums for my taste. It still sounded better than a lot of stuff I hear on the radio

  10. #10
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    Ryan - I wanted to reply to you some. First, I think you guys are really talented and creative. I liked the song writing and dynamics a lot. Looking over your web site I can see you guys would be a great live band and a lot of fun.
    I do however want to make a few points. I think this project reflects a lot of what is going on in the biz right now. And I'm not meaning to bash the home studio guys ... we all have to dig in somewhere. But, somewhere down the line the labels have said ok to too many projects with wrong people involved. For budget reasons or whatever ... but I feel this song is a good example of a great band that just needs a little focus and they could be something amazing. I think a lot of the now days are just taking something like this song though and saying its good enough. I think this song has great ideas but is a little lost. I can't tell you how many projects I have gotten that I become the "fix it guy". It basically comes down to ... Dev, do your thing and give us about four options to pick from. No body comes to the studio, no body standing over the shoulder ... they trust what you can do and let you go for it. I'm not sure that is where things are at now. I think may people ... not just talking about labels now ... take the risk with their musical talents. Choices are made by costs now rather than having the right team. Having said all that ... you guys are very talents ... don't sell yourselves short ... find that team of players and production folks that are going to take it to that next level.
    On the tech side ... The kick didn't have the punch where you needed it. It was all attack and very low sub bass action. Reminded me of someone trying to record a live recording kick with an Shure 91. I remember doing a remote for the Nokia Tour and the FOH guy freaked at me cause I wouldn't use his 91. I tried to explain to him that a 91 just doesn't translate to tape that well. So I just didn't find that the kick really connected with anything. And, being that it was so busy made things worse. The bass also had some funky mid range stuff. Not sure if this was the summing that might have gone on or what ... but it was another puzzle piece. I thought the guitars were tracked pretty nice. They were thick and big and grabbed a lot of harmonic detail which made it cool. I though the acoustic sounded nice too. I ended up using what would be a mono acoustic guitar because of what I did with the mix. I would have done a stereo thing if I used the front intro of the song and back side. I cut all the front and trimmed the back. I did want to retain the acoustic feel on the verses though. I ended up flying the acoustic in for the second verse too. On the other guitars I ended up doubling a lot of stuff. Here you had these great anthem guitar lines that just weren't filled out. So I went super size. The bridge is now HUGE!!! When the song comes out of the verses and into that bridge its like ... ok!!! Here we go!!! And I felt it really helped set up the harder vocals on the verses.
    Speaking of vocals. I really like the vocal vibe. If I were producing though I would have had you pull back just a little on the chorus. The choruses were the only part of the song where the music smoothed out and layed back at all. So then you have this vocal that is pushing on top of it. Kinda made you want to trip over yourself. I also would have pulled back on the BVG's a little. I only ended up using one of the BGV's but would have been cool to have a few different sonic vocals. To help on the play-off I few in a guitar line every few bars. It helped keep the theme better I felt.
    To close it out ... Well, sense I cut the front end I couldn't really use the back in too much. I again played with the tempo some just to make it work. So the song hits the big ending note ... a breath ... and then the closing acoustic guitar line which relected the line in the verse. I also lined up the feedback to a point at which the feedback came in tune with that ending acoutic chord. Whew!!! Scary stuff!!!! Hey, this is the Mix3 thing ... its all about experimenting right!?!?!
    Well, this is just my take on things. I'm just some guy in SoCal that does this everyday. We all have our opinions and what we like. Music is art not a race ... there is no winner. You could take a song and present it a million way. And no ... nothing is ever perfect and I don't think we should judge others that way. What is important is the feel and did we get the song where we wanted to go. If things sonically stand in the way ... its the job of us engineer types to hide those little blemishes and make the artist sound the best they can. And though many folks are at different levels, we are all "listener" and anyones ears are a good opinion. When I mix somthing I like to hear opinions from other talented mix guys as well as plain folk that just like listening to music. You can learn from both. And, an opinion is a feeling of something ... you can't get mad by the way someone feels. You can however get mad about the tact they use to express their feelings. Its two different things.
    So, as we go on this Mix3 adventure, the more open everyone is the more we will learn. I think Ryan is being a great sport to put himself on the grill like this. I have a lot of respect for him and his group for that. It shows there is a real desire to make things better and be the best he and his group can be.

    Devin DeVore
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