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Topic: Mixing thread

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  1. #1

    Mixing thread

    I thought I'd make a thread to talk about mixing. I'm sure some people here know how to mix audio, but there are others who have 0 experience with it. I thought this would be a good thread to make, so more experienced people could give their philosophy, techniques, tips, critiques, etc. I was reading a thread in another forum and thought some of the advice might be useful. http://thewombforums.com/showthread.php?t=10156 If you look down to the 14th post you see Charles Dye give some IMO good advice. He doesn't mix classical music however he does have Grammy, so the man does know how to make audio sound good.

    There doesn't seem to be much info on the internet about mixing classical music and even less about mixing orchestral samples. There seems to be 2 schools of thought on this. 1). Mix it as you would a classical recording. Use automation, one reverb, panning , little or no eq and little to no compression. 2). treat it as you would anything else that uses samples. Use all the techniques above along with heavy eqing, compression, stereo widening, distortion, etc.
    Personally I tend to lean towards the 2nd approach as I think it allows more freedom, but both are valid. Here is a song I posted in the listening room a week or 2 ago. I remixed it, so hopefully it sounds better than before(or at least more powerful). . I tried to mix this, so the song had a sense of power, while also retaining dynamics.

    Anyway, if you have questions, advice, videos, songs you want critiqued, etc, please post here.

  2. #2

    Re: Mixing thread

    Good going, Chandler - Mixing is a huge subject, and one we're all thinking of often since doing at least Some kind of mixing is always a part of our projects. This is a perennial topic that couldn't possibly ever get exhausted.

    Nice thread you posted from the other Forum. I read post #14 by Charles Dye which you pointed out. Excellent. A key point of his is that orchestral libraries, GPO included, have default panning positions for instruments, but it's not as if they necessarily work all that well in reality. I say we should always take his advice and stop to work with our pannings more and give our experiments a really critical listen.

    Great stuff!

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: Mixing thread

    I haven't been around on the forum, but I still look from time to time. Nice to see a mixing topic here as it is a huge area and one I got better with through so much trail and error.

    My most up to date methods now include mixing using the panning of instruments, the positioning of reverb - once instance per family of instruments (4 in total).

    Some mastering effects of stereo widening, very very light dynamic compression - and lots of EQ to properly bring out the characteristics (and attenuate as well) of each section.

    Yes, it is difficult to find good information, but it's out there - and my recommendation and number one way in which I personally improved all my mixing is to create a mock up of a piece you know quite well. The result is you have a performance you know in many ways how it should sound when finished, and getting as close to that finished result requires acquiring knowledge on areas you might not have ever thought about.

    Create a version of a classical piece you love, you'll learn so much about crafting the sound because you'll have an established benchmark already in place.
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  4. #4

    Re: Mixing thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    ...Create a version of a classical piece you love, you'll learn so much about crafting the sound because you'll have an established benchmark already in place.
    Graham! Ye were lost, now ye are found! Many a day is when I've wondered where you'd gone off to. Super to see you - And I can see why this particular topic is one that enticed you into writing a post. You were demonstrating excellent mixing skills when you were more active here and posting your projects, so this is excellent that you're on this thread.

    I pulled out that quote from you because it's such solid advice. Most people enjoy working on MIDI versions of favorite pieces of music, and doing that can be a great learning experience, giving their work a critical listen as they try to emulate a live recording of the work.

    Something I've done several times along those lines is to import an orchestral recording into Sonar and having it handy as a guide track. Muting and un-muting, I can keep listening to how the instruments were placed in the recording, what the natural reverberation of the hall sounds like, what the over-all EQ sounds like.

    Something else educational about having the track along side my MIDI versions is the chance to study the complex tempo changes of a live orchestra under the baton of a conductor. In Sonar, and I'm sure most DAW software programs have this kind of function, you can mark out where the measures start in a recording. Sonar keeps adjusting the tempo map according to where you're saying measures start, so the result is that the metronome stays in time with the recording, you can have your measures properly laid out. When you look at the Tempo View, you can get a picture of how the conductor sculpted the tempo throughout. And with that done, you can also play along with the original recording as you develop your MIDI tracks.

    Graham - Hope you pop up again soon!

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Mixing thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    Create a version of a classical piece you love, you'll learn so much about crafting the sound because you'll have an established benchmark already in place.
    Good advice. I like to do what Randy recommended below, although I go about it slightly differently. I think it's a good idea to get a group of reference tracks. Tracks of recordings that sound good and are similar in style to what you're trying to write(if you're writing you own music). It's important to pick songs that sound good as apposed to ones with your favorite performances(although sometimes you're lucky and you get both). I think having about 3 tracks for each style is good. By style I mean things like slow orchestral piece, string quartet, fanfare, march, soundtrack etc. Once you have finished you mix, export it to a wav file, and then import that into a new file in your DAW. From there import 2 or 3 of your reference tracks. Now mute all of them except your track and as it's playing switch between your track and the other tracks. As I'm doing this I usually keep a whiteboard next to me and write down my observations. Compare your piece to your reference tracks. Things that I think are important to listen for are

    1). Balance between instruments
    2). Volume/Dynamic differences(You don't want you song way louder or softer and you also don't want a non-dynamic mix)
    3). Effect levels(you don't want it your effects to be too prominent or too subtle compared to your reference)
    4). Blend(Does everything fit together and sound like it's all in the same place or does it sound like karaoke)
    5). Punch(Does it have as much in your face punch as your references. This is assuming your song needs to be punchy)
    6). Clarity(Is you mix as clear as others. Most of the time I find my mixes are duller than commercial stuff)
    7). 3D(Commercial mixes often have this quality where all the instruments have a sort space around them and separation. Samples or any close miked instrument not mixed correctly often has a sound that seem to place it directly on your speaker. Good mixes seem to have some instruments inside your speakers and others flying out. This is hard to describe, but when you hear it you understand.)
    8). Width(is it as wide sounding as commercial mixes and is the panning working as it should)
    9). EQ(Does your mix sound brighter, darker, more present etc. Ideally it will be close to the same as your references)

    I write all the problems I hear on the whiteboard and then I go back and work on the mix. I think it's important to first identify your problems, propose a solution and then try to implement that solution. I've found when I don't do this I'll just start throwing effects on things and then I'll really mess up my mix. I like to come up with a theory, experiment and then listen to see if I was right. If I wasn't I reverse whatever I did before I start twiddling knobs on other stuff. I often have to do this more than once, but every little improvement you make to your piece will make it sound much better. I've found there is no one thing that improves your mix, but there are a lot of little things and they all add up to better mixes.

  6. #6

    Re: Mixing thread

    Thanks Randy - high praise from a mix-maestro such as yourself. Happy to say I'm quite busy with the composing these days.

    Some great tips in this thread. I'm even working on a mock up right now (more studies) and some of the tips here I wasn't even aware of and so I'm using them right now as I type this. I tempo map my pieces but it didn't occur to me to exactly match them to another recording.

    The most accurate attempt I've made to date to match the sound was the first minute and a half of the Star Wars theme by John Williams. I learned so much doing that 1:30 secs that I completely dumped my templates and started from scratch after it, and was all the better for it too. Note of course I'm leaning more at the film music rather than classical music played on a stage. But the current mock up I'm working on right now is an attempt at a stage performance, even have the orchestra tuning up at the start of it.

    And that brings me to another little tip I picked up, 'room tone' a nice room tone (recorded silence - but isn't really silent, if you know what I mean) is a nice way of adding 'air' to the recording, especially in the quieter moments, or during a rest. Another tid-bit I picked up.
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  7. #7

    Re: Mixing thread

    Hi all.

    To me, as far as my current goals are, mixing means strings. The problem with string samples is that no matter how expensive a library they're off of, at higher registers of the violins and violas

    1. in forte they sound brittle, discontinuous, strident and loose tone color.
    2. in piano they are whimpery and thin because of the same problems of discontinuity.

    It looks as though the digital aliasing problem hasn't been solved yet as far as high strings are concerned. Because of this, one (well, I) cannot create sweeping melodic lines a la Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Szimanovsky or Rachmaninov. They cannot render the lush Mantovani type choruses either. But this is what I want to create and can't. And after eliminating many voices from my rich harmonies, I can't eliminate everything, can't I. I write symphonic pop, symphonic classical. Pop would be simpler because of the pad-like string harmonic structures. They would indeed, but I want rich structures and eliminating some voices pull the music down. So now I am trying to separate instruments by their frequency domain or grouping contrasting ones, such as second violins with cellos as seen many times at some orchestras' live personnel placement onstage. It works. After that, conquering the 3D distribution onstage is essential because even if one has only strings, they have to have stage depth.

    But we know all of this quite well, so I am speaking for (and to) myself. I can do a much better job with brass. But there, there's little or no aliasing if the library is any good.

    I came across Dye's advice a few months ago. Great. Right before it there was a writing by a guy who claimed he didn't have a mixing problem. I laughed out loud. Really... Then I saw Dye's writing below.

    At any rate, right now I simply cannot advance with my pieces because every melody will at one point or another be played by high strings. Surely, I'll complete the compositions, but they'll sound acceptably only after tweaking those samples to death. Yea, I know, you'll say I'll have to finally make some compromises. Surely, but only when all that I know of (and my pockets can afford) has been exhausted.

    But then all those pro demos that one finds on manufacturers' sites don't sound satisfactorily to my ears either. Of course, there's a lot of hype and fancy endorsement. Fact remains, high strings do not sound well yet.

    Thanks for reading, John.

  8. #8

    Re: Mixing thread

    John,

    you haven't heard a good sample library with high strings and good engineering.
    You have every right to think that nobody makes a sample library with good sounding high strings.
    Don't blame it on "digital aliasing".

  9. #9

    Re: Mixing thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post

    Create a version of a classical piece you love, you'll learn so much about crafting the sound because you'll have an established benchmark already in place.
    This is a great idea, especially if, like me, you're something of a beginner in the mixology field..(oh wait- that's about bartending, isn't it?). At any rate, between other projects, I've been working up an 'all-me' arrangement of Shostakovich's 2nd waltz from a piano sheet (which was all I could find). After reading the above thought, I went into my collection, dug out the version that inspired me to try it, and now the recorded Andre Rieu version resides on two tracks of my Reaper, with my version on (so far) 18 other tracks. Already, I see places I need to tweak severely, and one or two that I should probably re-write. Going to be a big help.

    And while Rieu is perhaps cringeworthy to some (not me, I actually enjoy his sound), his use of reverb dovetails nicely with other comments in this thread, so for now, it's something to shoot for.
    Last edited by BVstudios; 02-13-2013 at 01:03 AM. Reason: Can't spell "Shostakovich"
    Cheers,

    Kevin F..

    KM Frye- (SOCAN)
    Music Director- Four Seasons Musical Theatre- 2016

    Bella Vista Studios
    Canada

    GPO4, JABB3, Garritan World Inst, REAPER, Roland VS2480 DAW

  10. #10

    Re: Mixing thread

    Sylva, what string libraries have you tried?

    It's not something I've ever thought about - if they don't sound good I keep at it, if they sound good after tweaking a bit I think good, and move on. I assume so you're attempting to create finished pieces on the computer (not just mock ups).
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