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Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:31 am
by apres
So I've had My Dave Smith MEK for about a month and a half now, and I am loving the h**l out of it. Doing a lot of work with stuff I never thought that I would -- drones and other noisey patches, etc. However, I have noticed one problem, and it's not the MEK's fault -- the music that I've been composing with the MEK is giving me the vapors when I try to mix it.

Background: so I'm totally smitten by the MEK and I've been using it as much as I can on songs. Usually it makes up more than half the tracks, giving me basses and leads and percussive parts and pads. But when I go to mix it, everything sounds very warm and fuzzy and muddy. I'm begging to think that it's because I'm relying too much on the MEK. Since it's my first analog (or mostly analog, if you want to be technical) synth, I think I've gone overboard in using it.

This has lead me to consider something along the lines of a juno 60 to maybe take some off the work off the MEK and to increase the compositional palate, but I'm worried that I'll have the same problem with that and that something like a blofeld might be a better option. OR is it that working with analog synths have just exposed my weaknesses as a mixer, and I should take this as an opportunity to get better at mixing?

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 7:56 am
by tekkentool
If it lacks the characteristics you want in the mix, use the tools at your disposal. Eq it to get the sound you want, even stuff like lightly bitcrushing it, Or parallel processing it with some light distortion (mixed at a lower volume, the original sound will be unaffected but it will have that treble and slight edge added on top of it).

Or why not just grab a great sounding VST synth like waldorf largo or NI massive and adding some digital layers to bring some extra high and and balance to your mix.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:34 pm
by Stab Frenzy
You need to:

a) Get better at programming so all your patches don't sit in the same space spectrally.

b) Get to work with the EQ cutting stuff out.

Most synths will have a range that they tend to sit in and filters will have a certain sameyness to them if you're using them on every track of a song. The Evolver tends to build up in the low mids I find, so it often gets a cut there with EQ in my tracks.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 3:47 pm
by th0mas
everytime I see the word "mud" my immediate reaction is "notch eq cut somewhere around 200-500hz".

Same with "fat" (once you try to put it in the mix)

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 4:31 pm
by tekkentool
Cannot recommend the 300-600 area cut enough. That's actually a lull spot in the ears that isn't as easy to process as the rest of the spectral range. it's what causes mud.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 8:55 pm
by apres
Thanks for the responses, guys. A couple of questions:

I tend to program very expansive patches that pop up over the whole spectrum, and I'm guessing this is what is giving me mixing problems. Should I be using the lo-pass and hi-pass on the MEK to sculpt away, or is it better to get a full sound and then use a graphic EQ to make it exactly what it needs to be?

If using to much of the MEK would give a "sameness," would it be wise to try to integrate more softsynths (which I never had as much trouble mixing before), or should I think about a cheaper analog polysynth? Or will getting better at EQing and making tidying patches solve the problem itself?

Also, anyone have any good reference or reading material on equalization?

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:06 pm
by vanpet
I also love my MEK, and have more or less the same problem. I balance it with a Nord Lead, because it is NOT warm at all. So the 2 synths go together well.

Also, EQ is your friend.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:49 pm
by apres
That's why I was tossing around the idea of the desktop blofeld.

(Don't really have the cash for a nord lead at the moment.)

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:52 pm
by Sir Nose
Also, try creating patches with just the digital osc with little filtering if you want some sounds to not be so warm.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:29 am
by apres
Sir Nose wrote:Also, try creating patches with just the digital osc with little filtering if you want some sounds to not be so warm.
The only problem is that with the digital oscs, i just want to alias them to bits and trash the h**l out of them, because that's the best way they sound.

I do like some some of the digital oscs for programming basses.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:21 am
by Hair
You can read up on EQing all you want, but I think you'll get the most out of it by just playing around.

If you have an EQ with sweepable frequencies (EQ Eight in Ableton Live as an example), narrow the Q a little, crank up the gain, then sweep around until you find things that sound bad (or just really prominent), adjust the Q to isolate it a little more, then bring the gain down and cut to taste, usually you have some room to play with before it starts to sound all notched and weird.

Additionally, compare the EQ settings of your tracks against each other, sometimes it helps to cut one track in a range where another is strong etc.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:13 pm
by Stab Frenzy
apres wrote:I tend to program very expansive patches that pop up over the whole spectrum, and I'm guessing this is what is giving me mixing problems. Should I be using the lo-pass and hi-pass on the MEK to sculpt away, or is it better to get a full sound and then use a graphic EQ to make it exactly what it needs to be?
Graphic EQ: No. Graphics have their uses but this is not one of them.

Layering heaps and heaps of patches that don't use the filters is like painting all over a canvas using every colour. Each one might like fine by itself but together it's gonna be terrible. You've got to learn how to make things which sound good all mixed together, rather than adding together things which sound good on their own and expecting it to work.

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:31 pm
by tallowwaters
apres wrote:
Also, anyone have any good reference or reading material on equalization?
Yep, a lot of the threads in the forum I am moving this to. ;)

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:39 pm
by ned-ryarson
in most cases, each part of your needs its own space, so just think logically..

to give the bass its own space, eq most of the low freq out of everything else..

if ur arps or drones or pads are in the low mids, ur lead will need to be played higher etc.. simple

and for sounds that share the same freq range.. panning them apart can help them be more distinguishable


all basic stuff :)

Re: Monosynths and Composing/Mixing

Posted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:56 pm
by shaft9000
apres wrote:Thanks for the responses, guys. A couple of questions:

I tend to program very expansive patches that pop up over the whole spectrum, and I'm guessing this is what is giving me mixing problems.

Also, anyone have any good reference or reading material on equalization?
-be careful with how much resonance you're putting into each track, especially at different points and sweeps - too many resonant sounds can clutter up the mix very fast. as we all know it's easy to get carried away with tweaking a synth - and while it sounds cool at the time you're recording it, it quickly gets overbearing unless reigned in and used with discretion.
personally, it took me a while to get over the 'synth-glow' and to reign 'em in a bit when needed, myself. I'd get that new synth and everything i do with it is then mixed in 2-3dB louder than it has any right to be :)

sometimes the most "boring" sound is exactly what the mix needs to sound better. sine waves, for example.
or NO sound at all - space is underrated and most people making music today don't use nearly enough.

remember to not ignore your vanilla in favor of pizzaz.

- as far as EQ: it takes a lot of practice, and a simple educated adjustment will almost always give better results than a bunch of tiny adjustments.
know what notes are their frequency equivalents. learn about nulls and room treatment first. Typically, all the EQs in the world won't help your mix if the space your mixing in is not acoustically neutral first.

Oh, and here's one more: cut, NOT boost, is the general rule. one cannot stress this enough regarding EQ; especially software ones. accumulated boosts of EQ can turn a mix to shite in quite a hurry!