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> How Do I Make My Recording As Good As A Commercial, Part 5 - critcial, objective listening and does my mix sound ok?
tonymiro
post Feb 12 2012, 01:48 PM
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We are asked to comment on the mixes that we are sent and very often the question is 'Is it good enough for commercial release'? Now I have to say that we usually try to limit our critique to the main concerns for three main reasons: with some if we described all the issues we could write a book; it's human nature to 'switch off' if there's too much criticism; some people struggle to understand what are major issues and what are minor details, even when it is stated explicitly which is which.

Anyway the purpose of this thread is to outline some of the critical listening skills which can help you determine the quality of your own mix in a reasonably objecttive manner.

First - Make a mix comparison CD. Find 20 or so tracks from a variety of commercial CDs and import them in to your daw. Level match them (i.e. adjust the again so that they all sound like they are equally loud) and then take 20 seconds or less from each and compile those takes as a single track. Use this single track as a comparison between your mixes and commercial ones.

A few things to note:
If you burn the track to a CD you can use it in different studios and on different playback systems.

Don't use more than 20 seconds - 20 sec is long enough for you to get an idea of what a mix is like but not so long that you get used to it and its issues/preferences.

Tracks don't need to be ones you like but ones that represent what you think is a good mix

Tracks have to be level matched or you will suffer from the equal loudness effect.

Once you have made your CD listen to it carefully and use it to compare with your own mix. Note down issues and ask yourself questions about why things are the way they are and what you can do do to change them. (Don't try to change things in the mix just yet though- you're critically listening and evaluating for now. If you try and change things at this point then you will lose focus.) Things you might want to check may include:

1/ How are the instruments balanced. Do some appear to be too loud or too quiet particularly with respect to the focal instrument/vocal. Do some get inthe way of others?
2/ Where are the instruments positioned/panned in the stereo field? What about front to back/depth? Does this all sound natural or not?
3/ What happens to the mix when you collapse it to mono? Does it change? Do some instruments dissappear or do some get louder or quieter? Is there too much change in tonality (there will be some but it shouldn't be excessive).
4/ Can you hear any effects like reverb and delay? Is there more than one reverb being used? Is there too much of it? Is it appropriate or does it sound unnatural? Does it suit the music and the production?
5/ Do the instruments and voice sound as you would expect and does the EQ spectral balance sound reasonable? Can you judge if there are any odd resonant frequencies and if so at what frequencies are they? (You need to develop your ear so that you know what tones of say 10,000, 5000, 2500, 1500, 1000z, 250, 100, 50 Hzs sound like and can identify them reasonably accurately and consistently.) Has the mix been pass filtered/shelved and if so how does this affect the tonality of instruments and voice. Do any instruments have poor phase and/or comb filtering issues?Is the mix muddy, fatiguing, too bright, too dark and so on and how does the EQ determine this?
6/ Can you hear the fade ins and fade outs (if any) and do these work? Can you hear reverb tails decay fully and properly?
7/ Are there unintended/unwanted noises? Can you hear pops, bangs, clicks, mains hum, people talking, any other things that shouldn't be there. Is there too much background/low level noise and is the noise floor too high? Can you hear poor edits, are they properly aligned?
8/ Is a compressor used? Is there too much compression or too little? Does it affect the timbre of an instrument incorrecly? Is there unwanted pumping? Does it result in unwanted distortion?
9/ Does the track or individual instruments/vocals distort? Is it even or odd order distortion or both? Why is there distortion - deliberate or unintended? Does it cause shearing and tonal skew?
10/ Are there sufficient and appropriate macro and micro dynamics for the mix and the instruments/vocals?

If you do this with all your mixes you will develop a better sense of how good they are. You will learn how to critically evaluate your mixes and you will start to listen to them more objectively. You will also start to develop a better ear for audio and so be able to identify what frequency is what, what compression ratios and settings do, what hard and soft clipping are and what they sound like.

You'll become a better mixing engineer and the next time you ask a mastering engineer 'Tell me if my mix is any good' you won't get a 120 page list of criticisms wink.gif.


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thefireball
post Feb 12 2012, 03:34 PM
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Tony,

This is an amazing post. I am so thankful for this. I just bookmarked it too. You know, I was listening to my mix of a song in progress the other day. I listened through earbuds and found out my mix was really unbalanced. ohmy.gif I was surprised my studio monitors didn't tell me that before. Well, it's probably because I am not able to keep those monitors far apart, but actually close together. Just a little room "studio"...if you can hardly call it that. And also I found out that somehow the master volumes were unbalanced on my active studio monitors. I went ahead and balanced them. I KNEW I was not hearing things when I watched music stuff on YouTube. It just sounded unbalanced. I just assumed I must be going deaf in one ear. sad.gif But no, now that I actually checked!! biggrin.gif

So, I had to re-record my guitars. I am starting off with distorted dual guitars, recorded separately left and right 100 panned. This guy here used only 2 guitar tracks. I asked how in the world he was able to make his mix sound so big!!

Somebody commented:
Its the bass guitar. You have no idea how pivotal and important a good bass track is to making a guitar sound full and heavy.
This time my cabs are the same on both sides. I have no idea how the pros get the cabs to sound balanced on both sides if they are different. (I guess they EQ the crap out of them). The 4x12 Greenback 20 and 4x12 Greenback 25 seem to react a lot differently. Or it could also be that one mic was off axis and the other was on axis. UGH. So much to learn. So with this new setup, I only slightly EQ'd them differently. I am really trying to experiment with this stuff. I am so amateur, but I am learning more and more. biggrin.gif Even through all this re-recording. I have accepted that I will probably have to re-record again after this mix. I'm getting used to the idea.

I am also starting to not trying to sound commercial when it's impossible right now. All I have is myself; and also my limited knowledge. I posted a teaser of my composing and recording my track on YouTube to get some feedback on the riffs. People are liking it, and I am really digging it too. This makes me even more inspired. Just what the guys said. I am just trying to record my songs now as demos so I don't have to imagine I am actually getting it recorded professional at that time, because that is just outrageous!! laugh.gif Patience is a virtue. I'll get there eventually...not overnight. happy.gif

Brandon

This post has been edited by thefireball: Feb 12 2012, 03:43 PM


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Ben Higgins
post Feb 12 2012, 06:11 PM
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Thanks for this post Tony.. a goldmine as always ! smile.gif


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tonymiro
post Feb 13 2012, 10:06 AM
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QUOTE (thefireball @ Feb 12 2012, 02:34 PM) *
...
Somebody commented:
Its the bass guitar. You have no idea how pivotal and important a good bass track is to making a guitar sound full and heavy.


Yes - I think I've siad somewhere else that the focus of a lot of music is either the lead vocals and/or the bass/drums. You need to get those right and balance/mix everything else around them.

QUOTE
....
This time my cabs are the same on both sides. I have no idea how the pros get the cabs to sound balanced on both sides if they are different. (I guess they EQ the crap out of them).


It's more likely down to recording - you have to get the tone right at recording. If you don't then chances are that no amount of EQ'ing at mixing will get you to where you want to be. At recording it's about a clean signal, correct gain staging, a good mic and pre-amp choice, good mic positioning, good recording environment...

QUOTE
The 4x12 Greenback 20 and 4x12 Greenback 25 seem to react a lot differently. Or it could also be that one mic was off axis and the other was on axis. UGH. So much to learn. So with this new setup, I only slightly EQ'd them differently. I am really trying to experiment with this stuff. I am so amateur, but I am learning more and more. biggrin.gif Even through all this re-recording. I have accepted that I will probably have to re-record again after this mix. I'm getting used to the idea.

Yes experimenting is good as it's about the best way to learn about recording mic set ups. With mic positioning - speakers- even in the same cab - are not the same and will not sound the same, so you have to experiment to find which one/s work for recording in a cab and what position. The type of mic and capsule pattern matter - most people tend to use a dynamic 58/58 for close and a condensor for mid or distance but you can also experiment with hypercardioid, omni figure of 8 etc patterns at mid and distance. The match between preamp and mic is really important - there is a world of differance between a big Neumann condensor feeding a Neve pre and a dynamic Shure running to a home recording preamp. Direction and position of the mic matters - on axis/off axis closer, mid or distant - and be aware of how both phase and proximity affect tone. You can also position multiple mics to catch both on and off axis and also to pick up spill from the rear of the cab. Where you place the cab - distance from floor, rear walls, corners all affect reflection pick up on close and mid distance and so can combfilter. More than that though if you set a cab()or a drum kit) close to an open door to a big empty room you canset up an extra mic in that room and that can give the rcording a sense of space, reverb etc..

QUOTE
I am also starting to not trying to sound commercial when it's impossible right now. ...


Just keeping on doing what you are and learn and experiment and don't get disheartened. We all started with little if any knowledge and experience and one of the biggest lessons is learning what you do not know (if you see what I mean).

There are plenty of tracks sold on the internet that are a mile away from being good enough to be commerical. IMHO you are doing better than those just knowing that your mixes still need work before they are as professional as commercial ones.


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DenisN
post Feb 13 2012, 11:14 AM
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hi Tony!

Tnx you very much for the helpful info! I got the comparission approach suggested by my freand as well. As he said only to get the balance right not to get the same sound smile.gif....I would like to ask you some questions for eq-ing and was wondering if I can post them here of should I open a new thread?

Tnx,
Denis
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tonymiro
post Feb 13 2012, 02:54 PM
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QUOTE (DenisN @ Feb 13 2012, 10:14 AM) *
hi Tony!

Tnx you very much for the helpful info! I got the comparission approach suggested by my freand as well. As he said only to get the balance right not to get the same sound smile.gif....I would like to ask you some questions for eq-ing and was wondering if I can post them here of should I open a new thread?

Tnx,
Denis


NP Denis.

Open a new thread - it'll help keep things tidy smile.gif

(A bit rich that coming from me - I'm a master of going off topic biggrin.gif )



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thefireball
post Feb 13 2012, 03:34 PM
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Thanks again Tony. Unfortunately I'm somewhat limited to what I can do with cabs and mics in POD Farm. It only allows you to change the mic distance or mic type (57 off, 57 on, condenser, dynamic). But it's still a nice setup. I have got all those amps and cabs to choose from. They all sound pretty decent for just emulated amps.


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Sinisa Cekic
post Feb 13 2012, 04:18 PM
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Man, this is highly commendable, a special folder with your posts is increasing, thanks smile.gif.


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SpaseMoonkey
post Feb 13 2012, 04:40 PM
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QUOTE (thefireball @ Feb 13 2012, 10:34 AM) *
Thanks again Tony. Unfortunately I'm somewhat limited to what I can do with cabs and mics in POD Farm. It only allows you to change the mic distance or mic type (57 off, 57 on, condenser, dynamic). But it's still a nice setup. I have got all those amps and cabs to choose from. They all sound pretty decent for just emulated amps.


Hey Brandon,

I tried http://www.recabi.net/ when I demo'd Guitar Rig 5, because I just couldn't get a tone I enjoyed with their cabinets. It opened up some more options with it as well. Such as cabinets and mic positions. Maybe it will help you gain more options for what you are trying to do.

- Travis S.


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tonymiro
post Feb 13 2012, 05:08 PM
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QUOTE (DenisN @ Feb 13 2012, 10:14 AM) *
.... he said only to get the balance right not to get the same sound smile.gif....

Tnx,
Denis


A little OT - I'm old enough to remember some pro mixing engineers who preferred to be called balancing engineers. That was back in the day though when we still recorded to reel to reel tape and cut our masters with a recording lathe. There were also lots more roles to do in music production and the vast majority of engineers did one role on a production and stuck to it smile.gif .

Brandon - yes if your using modelling/emulation rather than micing up and recording a real amp you've less control. On the upside though if Line6 or whoever get the emulation ok then it should be easier to get a good signal. You can also try and see if you can use other emulations like Travis suggests.


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Get your music professionally mastered by anl AES registered Mastering Engineer. Contact me for Audio Mastering Services and Advice and visit our website www.miromastering.com

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Ivan Milenkovic
post Feb 13 2012, 08:14 PM
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Your posts are always very informative Tony! smile.gif Thanks, it's a pleasure to read! smile.gif


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