So many questions (Part Two)




Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

I’m going to carry on with this blog that answers some questions about recording that have been asked over the past couple of months.

1. Should I mix at low or high volume levels?

Listening at lower volumes has many advantages.  The obvious ones involve stopping hearing loss and ear fatigue when mixing.  Mixing at lower volumes can help you to hear the balance between different tracks.  When mixing at loud levels, the tracks can blur together and it can be hard to distinguish them on certain levels of frequency.  The only warning about mixing at lower volumes is that the strength of certain frequencies of bass and treble can be reduced.  Instead of overcompensating, you would be better to use different references – such as, listening to a commercial CD that is in a similar style to what you are recording. Listen to the CD at the same low volume levels, and occasionally a little higher in terms of volume.  I often use 2 different speakers to check my mixes at different volumes.  Other people I know will walk around their mixing room to listen to their mixes of play them a little louder with the door to the studio open and listening in the next room.  Lower volumes can also reveal whether the vocals or guitar solo are “out front.”  An “old school” trick is to listen to playback at a very low level – almost silence. You should only hear the vocals, guitar solo and the snare….if you hear other tracks at this level, the solos and voice are probably buried in the mix.

2. Parametric or graphic EQ?

If you have read some of my earlier posts you know I am a fan of parametric EQ.  There are always exceptions to the rule when applying EQ to a track/mix –  use narrow bandwidth (high Q) settings when cutting frequencies and wide bandwidth(low EQ) to boost frequencies.

3. Does panning really make a difference?

Even if you have EQ’d a song to perfection, it can still lack clarity. The reason for this is that two or more tracks that have similar frequencies are sitting in the same place in the stereo field. If such tracks as vocals, guitars, snare drums and drum hardware (e.g., hi hats/cymbals) are all going right up the middle, chances are they will blend together and lose a lot of definition.  Lower frequency instruments like the bass and kick drum can still go right up the middle – but feel free to pan the bass drum slightly (less than 10%) to the left and pan the kick drum slightly to the right. Each instrument should be panned to it’s own position – unless you want blending to occur.  If you do want blending to occur it’s a good idea to pan the tracks in the same position but offset slightly.  If things still feel unbalanced, try to pan tracks that are in similar frequency ranges to exact opposite locations.  For example if you have two rhythm guitar tracks, pan one track 50% to the right and the other 50% to the left. Another trick that engineers use is to monitor your stereo mix in mono through a single speaker.  If you are having problem placing a track, adjust the panning until the instrument comes through clearly.  It will sound amazing when you play it back in stereo.

4. How can you create a sense of space when you are mixing?

I’ve read an article in the past that claims that you can make your music 3D. The first dimension involves mixing tracks by setting or balancing the volumes. The second dimension refers to panning.  The third and final dimension involves effects – especially effects that involve timing. Of course we are referring to reverb and delay.  For example, when you have a dry vocal track, they can sound like they are too “up front” but with the right level of reverb the vocals can have more dimension and really make a difference to the overall “feel” of the song.  The only warning about this is that using reverb can bury the vocals and the clarity of the vocal track can be diminished.  One way of getting around this is by using delay and not reverb.  A short delay (30 ms or less) can be effective without affecting the clarity of the vocal track.  If you do this, it’s best to use the delay as a Send and not an insert; this will preserve the clarity of the vocal track even more.  If you roll off the highs from the delayed signal with a low pass filter – the vocal track will sound a little darker and should blend in well with the unprocessed sound.  If your goal is to make the entire recording sound like it was done in a large hall – don’t apply reverb to everything.  Instead, assign reverb to a Send and process only a couple of tracks (snare, toms, a rhythm guitar track) with a single reverb effect.  This should create the illusion of recording in a much bigger room creating an epic “big” sound.

Anyhow, I hope that this helps and that you have found at least one cool tip to try when you are making your recordings.  If you have the time or inclination, let me know what you think!

Yours In Christ!






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