Mixing Properly

Discussions on sound production outside the synthesizer such as mixing, processing, recording, editing and mastering.
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sequentialsoftshock
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Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Fri Apr 23, 2010 9:23 pm

This is a bit of a help question also, but I feel it will be more appropriate to this board.

I feel I may be mixing everything wrong. I usually just set everything to the same level on the meter when I set it up (At unity and just barely lighting above 0db) and I think it's what my problem is. If I want to play a sequence on the pro one over the 606 or tom, the P1 pretty much drowns out their sound. Likewise, if I want to play a fill on the BitOne over all that, it drowns it out. Even though I've been at this for awhile, I'm still not very good with mixing. If there are any suggestions please inform me. Also, the mixer I am using is a Tapco 120 with 4 Xlr/Instr with eq and gain knob and the other four channels are stereo with no eq and only a push button for gain +4db or -10

Thanks!
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by th0mas » Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:21 pm

You definitely have to balance them better? Start with using your ears to make it sound right?

Judging by your gear list, you've done something very common, but backwards. You've got all these great inputs (synths), but by the description of your mixer your synths are somewhat going to waste. What do you have as monitors?

Spend money on decent monitors, a proper mixer (a single eq knob? what does that even do?)

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by skweeegor » Fri Apr 23, 2010 11:28 pm

Different gear will have different output levels. From what I understand, it sounds like you're trying to set everything on the mixer to a standard level and expecting everything to play nice, but it just won't happen. You'll want to adjust the volume of everything as needed to make sure nothing drowns anything else out. You can also use an eq to carve out a space for the different channels. For example, cutting unneeded lows from a lead patch to leave more room for a bass and kick drum, or giving a light cut at 300-400hz to the bass and kick to leave more room for the midrange sounds.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:10 am

Well, the reason I set everything to a standard level is because when I record I only do one track at a time since I don't have an interface with multiple inputs. And I am waiting to buy the MacBook pro with firewire (I have the one that didn't) for a decent firewire interface.

The mixer itself isn't horrible for my stuff, I just don't think I'm using it properly. I am upgrading to a Zed 24 at some point in the next few months though. The monitors are Klipsch. I also have a roland keyboard amp from a band mate but I've never even plugged it in.

I should have said "knobs". The first four channels have a three band EQ which is still pretty basic.
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by tallowwaters » Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:40 am

skweeegor wrote:giving a light cut at 300-400hz to the bass and kick to leave more room for the midrange sounds.
Not a general rule by any means though. Cutting a bass drum sample that's already had that frequency cut is going to make boom with no bite, and cutting a dub bass there is going to get rid of any note clarity.

You don't need everything hitting 0db by any means, I stay a good bit lower and usually keep the volume knobs on my gear fully cranked and adjust input and push up post volume as needed, though my setup is a bit uncommon.
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Apr 24, 2010 2:06 am

Setting things up so they're all at unity isn't going to make things sound good. As has already been said, use your ears. If something's too loud, turn it own. Don't fuss too much about hitting unity to get a good signal to noise ratio, you're using a cheap mixer so it's never going to be great.

Learn what those knobs on your mixer do and then use them a lot, you'll figure it out eventually. Practice makes perfect.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:32 am

So, what would be suggested for a decent mixer/monitor setup. I am unsure of when I'll have the $700 for the Zed because I end up spending it on synths. :)
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Apr 24, 2010 4:02 am

Buying more synths when you admittedly can't use the ones you already have is a bit silly, to put it lightly. The speakers you're using won't be very flat IMO, you should get some monitors instead so you'll be able to hear everything that's coming out of your synths and be able to make accurate mixing decisions. I use Yamaha MSP5As, they're fantastic for the money. There are a lot of other good value monitors out there though, and most are going to be better than hifi speakers.

You don't need a new mixer or new synths, you need to put the time in to learn to use what you already have. Spend some time getting what you've got sounding good before you bother upgrading, if you keep waiting til you've got better gear before you bother putting the time in to learn it you'll end up with a million dollar studio and no idea how to pull a good mix. If you can get things sounding good on a Tapco mixer because you know how to use it then when you eventually upgrade you'll be doing even better mixes on something that sounds better.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Sat Apr 24, 2010 5:13 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:Buying more synths when you admittedly can't use the ones you already have is a bit silly, to put it lightly. The speakers you're using won't be very flat IMO, you should get some monitors instead so you'll be able to hear everything that's coming out of your synths and be able to make accurate mixing decisions. I use Yamaha MSP5As, they're fantastic for the money. There are a lot of other good value monitors out there though, and most are going to be better than hifi speakers.

You don't need a new mixer or new synths, you need to put the time in to learn to use what you already have. Spend some time getting what you've got sounding good before you bother upgrading, if you keep waiting til you've got better gear before you bother putting the time in to learn it you'll end up with a million dollar studio and no idea how to pull a good mix. If you can get things sounding good on a Tapco mixer because you know how to use it then when you eventually upgrade you'll be doing even better mixes on something that sounds better.
The only real reason I didn't get proper monitors is because the salespeople at GC can't give any decent advice and I really didn't know what to expect for money/size. The speakers I am using are putting in a lot of added bass which really throws me off. I could probably sell the speaker set I have now and buy new monitors and use the keyboard amp I have for now. I think I am going to just work with my pro one and 606 to do a minimalist thing and then bring the rest in as I get better with mixes/reference.

Thanks all for the great suggestions/input!
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Apr 24, 2010 6:50 am

Yeah those big stores aren't often very good at giving you advice you can trust.

Any store that's worth buying from will let you bring in a CD of reference material to audition monitors with, put together a CD of tracks you know quite well and a few of your own mixes and listen to them on a few sets of monitors that are in your price range, and probably a few that are out of your price range so you can see what difference the price difference makes.

What you should be listening for is the level of detail, the depth with which you can hear into the mix and evenness of frequency response. You should also consider the size of the room you're working in as well, 5" drivers are pretty good in a small room but if you put bigger, more powerful monitors in the same room things can get messy. Most stores will have a big space so these kind of effects won't be noticeable until you get home, so keep that in mind.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by nvbrkr » Sat Apr 24, 2010 7:47 am

You might not want to sell the speakers you have now. You'll definitely benefit from several reference playback systems later on if you choose to release your stuff. Some hifi systems work quite well for monitoring purposes, but I don't think that applies to stuff that's been manufactured during the last decade and a half. Most people have had good experiences with the Yamaha MSP -series for mixing. I myself use the MSP10s, so I couldn't imagine using smaller speakers anymore. That's just me.

I might have misunderstood the intended message here, but if you mix your material on a computer why would you worry about the mixer you are using? Just as long as you don't get huge amounts of hiss you should be perfectly alright. Whilst those Tapco / Behringer etc. type of units are hardly optimal, they won't prevent you from doing high quality recordings. The quality of the overall recording is mostly determined by the quality of those elements that have the most prevailing function in a mix. You can do wonders to a mix just by changing a snare sound, for example.

If one instrument is drowning out another, it means they are fighting over the same frequency range. Often the problem is the bass, like mentioned above. One solution is EQ, another one is to rethink how you use the instruments for your compositions. There was a thread a earlier that had the poster complaining about not getting his MS20 and drum machine work together. He didn't understand why he couldn't control the bass levels. The clip he posted just had a bassy non-stop 16th (8?) note sequence on it, a thumping kick drum and maybe some random stuff on top of that. I didn't myself respond to that thread, because the obvious answer would have been "that's not how you make music - what else than bass would you expect there to be anyway". There's only so much you can do with post-production tricks, so the best solution is to rethink your approach on arrangements. Just listen to records and compare your own tracks to them - do they sound anything alike? Which parts would need to be "thinner"? Should there be more "space" between the different instruments? Minimalism isn't really the solution, not having everything playing at the same time is.

Take it from someone who didn't understand a s**t about mixing until his 30s.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:01 am

I may look into the MSP5's; it seems they get good praise within the synthesizer community, not a price range I should be shy of considering what I will be putting through them and they should be a good size for my apartment. Would the 3" version be too little though? When it comes to post, mixing isn't as big of a deal for me because, like I said, I record one at a time in separate tracks due to lack of multi input interface. I am mainly concerned about getting a good sound when I just want to play with something with a few machines.
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by nvbrkr » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:33 am

3" sounds more like computer speaker territory to me. Even the MSP5s would be too small for my own taste and I'd opt for the MSP7s instead - they seem to be on discount at many places currently. Otherwise I'm with mr. Frenzy on this thing. You shouldn't be afraid of investing money on monitors instead of getting new instruments. That is, if your intent is to get your mixes sound right. Then you should just sit down and spend 6 months on learning how to use them.

Some people can pull off good mixes on very modest equipment. Some people, like me, need more expensive equipment for it. I just think going for the cheaper option will end you up in a cycle where you feel like you're constantly in the need of upgrading. Stay away from the cheap, hyped products though - the worst thing I ever spent my money on were the Behringer Truths.

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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:40 am

Well, I wasn't really trying to go for cheap when I bought the mixer. It suited my needs at the time two years ago and I'm now wanting to have a better/clearer sound with my gear. I essentially dismiss Behringer and other similar brands. I actually unreasonably always seem to think M audio stuff is cheap quality too...
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Re: Mixing Properly

Post by meatballfulton » Sat Apr 24, 2010 12:17 pm

A good rule of thumb for mixing is that once you have brought all the parts up (to make sure everything is connected and ther's no ugly noises) turn them all down except what you want to be the bedrock of the mix...typically drums or bass. Adjust EQ, pans, etc. until that sounds good. Then add the next most important part. At each step if the new part makes one of the earlier parts sound worse, tweak the new part so that it is not obscuring the rest of the mix. Usually vocals (if any) or your main melodic instrument go last.

As far as your speakers, play what you consider great sounding CDs through them and then adjust your own mixes to come close to that sound. Burn your mix to a CD and play in as many systems as you can (car, boombox, etc.), note what sounds wrong, go back and adjust.
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