definitely car stereo. i check in car, 2 different (nice and horrible) headphones and native laptop and desktop speakers. if fair-pleasant translation occurs on each of those then i have found i can’t reasonably do any better by myself. i do try to get others involved but these days my wife is the only one i can easily get to sit with me. she often helps with clarity.
not sure if it’s been said but common inclination is to turn things up. but when mixing, it is very helpful to turn down. get it sounding great soft (and that can help if your room isn’t professionally prep’d/isolated frequency-wise) and it’ll likely translate.
going off of this, i highly suggest everyone doing anything that involves ears at some point glance over this. Fletcher-Munson Curves
i found that to be true especially since i always work with headphones
In Reaper normalization is non-destructive, so you don’t lose anything and can always turn it down if for some reason something seems weird. Also turning the gain of a clip up by +6dB and setting the fader to 0dB is the same as turning the fader up +6dB. All of the calculations are done in floating point anyway, so the resolution remains the same regardless of what scale you are using.
level is a relative thing. most software nowadays will auto-gain the tracks, for example Spotfiy, YouTube, iTunes Music. so the only thing you need to be aware of:
keep the mix below 0 db (no clipping! my advice: -1 db)
make the mix sound nice, use compression, limiting maybe, anything really, just see how it sounds
don’t try to make a mix sound loud. there’s no such thing. you can make things sound compressed, or keep it dynamic, but loud? no that’s just a matter of setting the level. trust the auto-gain
I’ve dabbled in mixing my music for a number of years; I use Ableton/FabFilter. I’ve read a bunch of web sites and some books, but still struggle to get what I’d call a good mix. A lot of mixing tutorials are for traditional music, whereas I do electronic/Eurorack mostly (think Cortini, Lowe, Pye Corner). I’m wondering if there are a few golden rules that get your music sounding 90% the way there. I would surmise that most mixing engineers have a set pattern at least for a good portion of their process, and then tweak based on the type of music or sound/effect that the performer/producer is going for.
I’m curious if others struggle with getting their music mix to sound good. Maybe not to professional level, but reasonably close… how did you overcome your issues?
Any comments appreciated!
i totally struggle with this, for the same reason - i record no guitars; but here are a few tips, maybe it helps seed the discussion
- Nobody else has heard your mix so, provided nothing terrible jumps out of it, more often than not to other people’s ears it will sound ok. People are very generous with this.
- When I get lost, I try the pink noise trick, it has worked for me a few times
- The 120Hz and 200Hz areas see so much cutting on everything I do, it’s scandalous. Many frequencies pile up there.
- Definitely don’t highpass everything
- Don’t trust headphones, but do find a pair of headphones you secretly trust
I have my struggles with mixing too. Especially with frequencies, EQ-ing, multiband compression and stuff like that. I feel a lot of my mixes is so mid-tone heavy, although I kind of look for that sound, I think it’s hard to find the right balance. With EQ I’ve lately been trying to follow a simple rule; subtract highs to boost lows, and vice versa, instead of boosting the frequencies I want to beef up. With the modular I now run everything out through an ES-8 and often a stereo out of the Rosie aswell - this into Ableton with FX and pans and stuff. My philosophy is that I try to shape the sounds to my liking as much as possible before I do any recording, so when I’ve recorded stuff from the modular I usually just do some slight EQ and maybe some FX automation etc. Note that I have just gotten into modular and still experimenting with how to work with it.
This year I’ve gotten more and more into it (mixing), and with a lot of my upcoming music projects the mixing part is very much a part of the compositions and kind of part of the instrument that is the laptop! I’m on the fence right now whether I should release a handful of compositions as is, or if I should run the mixes by someone that could just do some sprinkles on them, to make it just a little more “hi-end”. I think that the scary thing with having someone else do some additional mixing is the potential of them not getting your idea of the mix and then change it all up. Maybe just have someone do a master is to way to go.
What is your experience with mastering your music?
Yeah, I saw this. Seems more about mastering than mixing.
I’ve been using Landr (www.landr.com) for mastering since I just don’t have time to learn that as well. Mixing is really where my interest is at the moment. I definitely agree with you on subtractive EQ. Avoid boosting when possible. I think that choosing sounds with complimentary frequency ranges helps a lot, even if it’s not necessarily the exact sound you want. Otherwise, I tend to get these nasty resonances that annoy the ear. I remove <50Hz on all of my tracks to allow the bass drum (if any) to come through. Where I struggles is getting the lead track to stand out against the rest of the song. Balancing forefront and background using filters. Getting the instruments to sit spatially in the mix. Panning does a bit of that, but I’m sure I could learn a lot more. Getting some more punch out of the song. When and where to compress a bit.
My 2 cents, be brave.
I´ve redone mixes completely because bass was too high, sound was too dirty, etc…
It sounded good to me but in the end I wasnt confident enough, just to hear music some time after that, made by someone else, that sounded that exact same way…
And I liked it, and it worked.
Be creative, be brave, trust your ears.
If it sounds good, it is good.
i think it very much depends on what your aims are. all i try to do is make it feel right with an abstract goal of hoping to make something that will feel nice to listen to down the road in time. the biggest simple factors for me are:
-a room i am used to acoustically and comfortable working in
-monitors i trust and know
-headphones similarly known and trusted.
but this is all so subjective
and then just fluency with that setup over and over and over, so…finishing tracks/pieces/works etc.
once you get through all that, know what your goals are etc. test your mixes. listen to reference music. test in aux headphones, make a crappy mp3 and test that in car and on laptop speakers. take notes if helpful in order to bring any new info back to your workspace. take whatever time necessary in between so not to ruin it all for yourself if possible as going through each listen these days wears out the welcome for me more often than not. that time between can often bring a level of objectivity that is priceless.
@davidjez Cool! And the results with landr is good? I’ll check it out.
In addition to cutting low frequencies (and maybe some highs to make room for hi-hats etc), using filter and panning I’ve had some luck with placing different elements in the mix with various amounts of reverb. If I want an element to stick out I know that a lot of reverb won’t do me too much good. It’s a good way to make room for leads by placing other elements further back in the mix.
You can master a couple of tracks for free on Landr. The interface is pretty sleek and I’ve been generally happy with the results. Of course GIGO.
This is slightly off topic, but I would like to try my hand at mixing a full band. I’m not really that plugged in to my local scene but do have some friends that make music with full bands, including drums. I’m specifically interested in taking a track I know nothing about and working from the ground up. I can’t practice this way with my own music.
My question is of etiquette. Would it be reasonable for me to reach out to a friend of mine and ask for a project to practice on? I know he has worked with folks in LA in the past and I know its not something he does full-time or for money - its for his own purposes.
Would this be crossing some line I’m not aware of? The expectation would be that the track stays in my possession solely and is only for my purposes unless he chooses to do something with it otherwise. Of course, if he asked that I terminate the project at any point, I would.
The most fun with tape ever for me was getting to use a 2 inch 16 track for a series of recordings. Limitations do tend to lead to recordings that I remember way later in life. I’ve been working with 1 - 8 x 2 tracking the last couple of years, also a lot of fun and productive. I’ve realized over time that “mixing down” multi-track recordings has ruined a lot of well played, carefully recorded performances (to my ear).
A rotten car stereo and earbuds / cell phones is the acid test for me too. It’s difficult to plan a certain vibe or sound when you can safely say people will not download the flac (even for free) and listen to the glorious lower freqs in there.
if you don’t think your friend would be offended (there are certain friends of mine I would ask, others I wouldn’t), then I would absolutely to encourage you to try to get individual un-effected tracks for anything you can and try mixing them as an exercise. mixing, failing, reading about how you failed, and repeating are the best ways to get comfortable and learn.
edit: just to be clear, I’d recommend pitching it strictly as a learning experience for you that would never be released. may be easier to make people anxious if they think you’re trying to work on spec or something.