With the deadline for “Praising Him Loudly: Volume 4″ less than one day away – I wanted to write a short post about the whole mixing process. It is so easy to spend a lot of time on a mix; but a lot of the forums that I have been part of and a lot of the workshops I have attended have been about the whole concept of mixing quickly. In other words, you have a good bass track – but is spending and extra 12 hours on the track worth it in the end. Is that 12 hours you spend on the track going to make a difference in the overall mix that reflects the extra time. According to a lot of producers, if you need to spend too much time to “fix” a track or make it “fit” into the mix – the problem could be that the track itself needs to be redone. Now this advice is kind of relative; there have been some mixes where I did spend more time than I should have and the result was well worth it. But I did a re-mix of a song that my old band (The Result) did – I remember spending way too much time mixing the original song – when I dug up the original tracks and mixed them – the new mix took a quarter of the time and sounded better. Granted that I have had over 10 years of mixing/mastering experience since I finished the original mix – but the fact that it sounded a lot better with less time proved this “quick mix” theory to me in a very meaningful way.
With the deadline looming closer – here is a couple of things to check out:
1) Panning – does everything in your mix have a place in the stereo sound spectrum. Usually, bass guitars and kick drums are run right up the middle, but panning guitars, voices, and the rest of the drum kit can take advantage of the stereo field.
2) Compression – a lot of poor sounding recordings are due to not using compression properly. Its hard sometimes to strike a balance between over compression and under compression. I do get a lot of questions about using compression ratios – there is not a “magic” setting for this. It is dependent on how the recording of the instrument track was done. It is very rare that I use a ratio of over 6:1 when I am using compression. Why?? Experiment with a track that you have recently recorded. Make sure that your volume is turned down a little bit so that you don’t damage your speakers. Take the snare track and start it out with a ratio of 1:1, then 2:1 and try all the different ratios in your compression plugin – even 10:1 or greater if you have it. With most instruments – the higher the ratio – the more the natural sound of the instrument changes. There is way more to using compression than just using the ratio – but ratio is important. I’m hoping to write a post in the near future about compression.
3) EQ – When I’m working with other people to improve their mixes there seems to be a misunderstanding about EQ. Again, just like compression – there is no magical setting, but there are certain settings than can act as a reference point. Again, I’m going to write another blog devoted to EQ in the near future – but here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when they are mixing;
– Making large boosts with the EQ gain control (e.g., a 15-20 dB boost can be a bad sign, instead use the subtractive method instead – lower the frequencies that you don’t want).
– boosting the same frequencies across all the instruments in the mix – this can result in a noisy, muddy sounding mix.
– refusing to filter (e.g., rolling off low level frequencies of the guitar track to make the bass fit better, etc.)
– not knowing what the controls really do on an EQ plugin or with EQ hardware (also, just moving the frequency and letting dust collect on the gain)
4) If you have the time, listen to your mix on different systems/speakers. Not to be elitist, but most people don’t have really well-designed audio speakers. And the fact that most of us use ear buds to listen to music brings in a multitude of mixing concerns. I have a high end set of Tannoys in my studio, but I also use a set of smaller Behringer MS20s to double-check how the mix sounds. I’ll even throw it into the stereo of my van as I’m driving around. A friend of mine who taught me a lot about music (Nelson McCrossan) insisted on taking the time to do this. His mixes always sounded fantastic and I am totally convinced that it was because of the detailed listening he did using different speakers.
Making mistakes is an important part of learning how to mix. As most of your know, it takes time to develop your ears and to use your barrage of recording equipment properly. There is a quotation that has been floating on the Internet for a while and it is attributed to Beethoven, – “To play a wrong note is insignificant; but to play without passion is inexcusable.” Hopefully, all our bands will reflect the importance of passion as we strive to create metal music that reflects our faith and devotion to our Holy Roman Catholic Church!!
Thanks to the bands that have submitted their music early!! If the music we have already is any indication, PHL4 sounds like it could be one of the best compilations yet!
Again, if you have any questions about the project or if you are experiencing problems with submitting your music on time – please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll figure this out together!
Yours In Christ!!
PRAY THE ROSARY EVERY DAY!!