Not sure if this should go here or in 'listening lounge' but here goes...
"Eddie at the Mental Institution"
So in June I released the above track (bmx version for you Buzz users here) which overall I'm really happy with. However, I know it has mixing & mastering problems and going by some of the comments I've gotten, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Unfortunately I'm not really sure how to put the flaws I hear into words. It seems a bit "muddy" to me and the kickdrum gets lost. I more or less did the final mixdown by trial and error until I got it sort-of right. Keep in mind I was trying for a cluttered and manic type of sound, but I think everything washes together a bit much...?
Anyway after that track I took a short break from music-making to move myself overseas but I've finally gotten my studio more or less set up how I like it again. I'm wondering if any of you can give me some ideas on what I did wrong in 'Eddie' and how to sort out future songs a little better? I probably won't be remixing this one just yet but some advice I could apply to the new tracks I'm working on would really help.
It seems to me like everything is panned pretty much to the centre and there's not much EQ or compression on the synth parts. Seeing as they're all LPF patches there is a lot of build up in the low mids which is what's making everything muddy.
To get it sounding cleaner:
- Pan stuff. If you've got one sound coming from teh left and one from the right they won't get in each others way. - Plan your parts to sit in different frequency ranges and then use EQ to focus them in those places. The kick should sit in the bottom end, so put a HPF on everything that isn't the kick. Pick a part to carry the bass, say the x0x, and then cut the low mids of the other synth parts either with the HPF or other EQ so they don't interfere with that area. EQ the chord stab bit so it's not taking up much room in the low mids and pokes out a bit more in the high mids. You shouldn't need to cut the highs on LPF patches cause there shouldn't be much there, so let the percussion have that space to itself. It sounds like either you didn't EQ at all or you EQed each part soloed to make it sound good on its own. You don't want parts to sound good soloed, you want the song all together to sound good. - Use a bit of compression to get things sitting nicely. Maybe a bit of sidechaining to get the kick to duck the other parts. If you couldn't be bothered doing the sidechain thing then mix really kick heavy into a compressor on your master buss and let the ducking happen that way. Build your mix one part at a time starting with whatever's most important to the track to you and then adding the other parts one at a time until it's all together. If you do things that way you often find you need very little of the parts that are least important if everything's EQed nicely and there's space for everything to sit.
I guess the number one thing before all that is make sure your monitoring situation is sorted out nicely first. You can't mix properly if you can't hear exactly what you're doing.
Yea I'm working on pretty much the same thing. Side-chaining is very very important if you want a modern pumping sound, and just to help give the mix space - dunno how easy side-chaining is in other software; but in Ableton its very easy indeed ...
Also, I can't use phones right now to test your track, but you defo wanna do a major mix session in headphones, good headphones, if it sounds crappy in their then it needs work. Work on the individual elements to ensure they have warmth as well as clarity, separation and stereo width etc, nothing except maybe the low-end of the kick drum should sound mono. I'm mixing for a compromise between my sennheisers and my monitors. At the end of the day; its gotta sound good in phones or it needs work.
Here's me giving advice, when actually I need help myself!! Anything to add anyone?
The above demo track sounds a bit dry and muffled on my lovely speakers here, the main way for me to hear exactly what is going on is to stick my headphones on, that way I can hear every little detail in the production. Another example is that when I was a teenager I loved music, but hearing UFOrb on headphones blew my head off, I'd never heard such clarity and perfection, without putting headphones on I would have never had that experience. Then also I don't have a PA system, so the closest thing to very loud club sound is my phones? Yes I know the bass doesn't go low enough on phones, and stereo is absolute, but its the lack of room acoustics; the enclosed space...
So I'm saying headphones are essential for attention to detail, certainly for electronic music. But I'm also struggling to perfect the mix and therefore open to other peoples opinions : )
Cool, thank you so much for the advice all. This track was composed 90% using a 2+1 set of home computer speakers and finished off with a set of mid-range consumer headphones, so not a proper monitoring setup at all in other words. I really need to get that sorted but as I live with flatmates at the moment I don't have a huge amount of opportunities to play anything at volume...
I'll definitely be taking advice from this thread and playing around with this piece a bit more to see what I can do with it. This song is a Buzz composition with all the synth parts recorded & integrated individually as samples, so changing the routing/mastering/effects on each individual part isn't difficult at all. I'll try some sidechaining on the kick but I'm not too nuts about the effect that produces when it's overdone... Regarding panning, I have a lot of the instruments on a stereo delay so I tried to keep the main hits pretty central (to differentiate them from the L R echoes) but maybe that's not working well.
I'm trying to re-organize my setup so that it's a bit more "live play-friendly", i.e. less need for VST/computer-based effects/processing but that's another story...
For "live play friendly" I think you should be looking at some kind of hardware controller or two.
Stab's advice on the mix is good. I would add- your mix has all the hallmarks of being created on an inadequate monitoring system. You've compensated for its inadequacies so it will sound good on your speakers but not on anyone else's. Furthermore, I think you probably should separate out the snare so it doesn't get filtered as much as the rest of the drum loop, and back off the stereo delay, especially on the 303. I think you should consider the delay to be another instrument, so feeding several things into it is probably causing a confused sound.
Stab Frenzy wrote:I think mixing on headphones is a really bad idea actually, it's very difficult to get a mix to translate well from headphones to other speakers.
As for the detail issue- that's subjective. My experience of great speakers in a well designed room is hearing more detail, but not in a way that it is "too much info". I find it to be a hugely enjoyable experience, and it makes the mix very easy.
This is a song I did about 10 years ago. To this day it remains musically one of my favourite things I've ever managed to write. I decided it needed a re-release so I went to give to a full channel-by-channel sample upgrade, remaster, and corrective EQ. I've probably listened to its original form a thousand times or more, so it was kind of difficult to identify the problem areas because I kept thinking 'well that's how it's *supposed* to sound!' but I think I got to tweaking all the major parts.
I took advice from some of my favourite musicians and even watched a bunch of seminars on mixing techniques, and really tried to incorporate what I learned into this project. Here's what I came up with:
Ehm... I'm really not sure. I don't think I can go any further with my lack-of mastering setup. I previewed this on my mid-range consumer headphones, a mid-range TV, some Harmon Kardon computer speakers, and a couple other pairs of headphones borrowed from friends (none of them particularly good.) I got it sounding *okay* on most of those but now I don't particularly like it on my workstation PC which outputs to the mixer. Something still seems way off to me...
So yeah, any suggestions are appreciated. Feel free to tear this apart from a mastering / EQ standpoint. It's not done yet and I definitely won't be insulted. If someone really wants to dig into it I could upload the whole Reaper project somewhere, but for now please have a listen and post your thoughts. (And tell me what kind of setup you were listening on too!)
I'd say it's already good from the technical standpoint, but deserves some honing in the arrangement part. Currently it looks (well, sounds) totally "built of bricks", and those bricks are simply glued to each other - with no natural evolution between them. I believe it would benefit from making parts/melodies/riffs appear and move away (fade in and fade out) smoothly, instead of roughly beginning and ending "at the boundaries of measures". So to be not in a strict "verse/chorus/solo" style as in a typical song (or whatever is imposed by the sequencer patterns), but with more delicate transitions. Well, unless that was your original intention... PS. flat as a sausage (look at the soundcloud oscillogram ) Does it need some more loudness moves?
Thanks - I know what you mean about it being blocky, but I'm keeping the structure more-or-less the same as the original for now. Maybe I'll do another remix later on.
I think in my quest to EQ all the 'unused' frequencies out of every instrument, I managed to kill a lot of the dynamic range that was in the original - just jumping back and forth I can hear some of the synth lines were way punchier before I started mucking with them. I'm going to go back to work on that a bit.
I might change the main bass/sub bass instrument too (which is actually some kind of FM tom, sampled and played an octave low!) I tried to once already but couldn't get anything else to sound right in its place.