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> Another Question For Tony, Elevation in a mix.
The Uncreator
post Mar 22 2012, 12:30 AM
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Ok, so after three heavy years of recording, I have gotten mixing in 2 dimensions down decent enough (left/ right, forward/back) I can understand frequency ranges enough to place and mix effectively for my equipment.

However, on a lot of my favorite albums I notice elevation, a third dimension, as if some instruments sit at the same level on volume, just "on top" of the other instruments. I first though that maybe this was a mix done in a surround sound mix like some bands do, although I doubt this is true with every album I notice this on.

Mostly its in the cymabals, and layered lead guitars I notice this on, Is this simply the result of an optimum mix with high end equipment and rooms? or is there some other trickery at work?
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Saoirse O'Shea
post Mar 22 2012, 10:25 AM
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Not sure what you mean by elevation - sorry. A stereo recording should have a left to right stereo image and front to back depth. If by elevation you're saying that there is a vertical up down axis then that isn't really true. You might appear to hear some up down but that is due to slight shifts in phase. You can hear the slight shifts in phase if you stay in one place and move your head up and down. That's due mainly to the changes in how long it takes for a sound to get to your ear from the source, including all the related complicated reflections. It's why it's important to sit in one position when you record/mix/master and also why it's so important that that position places the speaker at the correct height wrt you ears. If the different speakers in your monitors are not well integrated then they might exaggerate any up/down movement.

What you might however be picking up is good balancing and mixing. If two instruments occupy the same frequency range then one can mask the other in a mix. The role of the mix engineer is to balance this appropriately and it's done in lots of ways including good eq'ing, ducking/gating and l/r balance/panning and of course good recording technique including good mono and good stereo micing to start with.

When you mix you balance instruments both in level and in localisation/placement in the stereo field both L to R and front to back. If two instruments share the same frequency range then and they are placed on top of each other then they will internally sum to emphasise the masking. If you placing one on the left and other on the right they will acoustically sum, which doesn't emphasise the masking as much as before, and so you can balance them and the stereo image more easily. Furthermore you can affect the perceived front/back placement - by, for instance, compression and reverb techniques - and so appear to move one instrument forward and another back in a mix. An instrument that is forward and louder will mask another instrument that seems to be quieter and behind it. You can however using subtle gating, ducking and reverb to help the masked instrument pop up.

How you place instruments in a mix affects the stereo balance of the recording. Keep in mind that stereo has a left and a right source but no real centre - the centre that you hear is a ghost/phantom image formed by comibination of the L and R. If you pan nearly everything in to the centre you end up with a near mono recording - sometimes called an 'I' mix. In an 'I' mix most of the instruments are in the centre and the sides are used only for reverb and some small background layers. If you place too much emphaisis on the extreme L and R you get a weak centre and it sounds like everything comes from L and R and very little is in the middle - that's a 'V' mix. If you combine the 'I' and the 'V' extremes you get a 'W' - here you get a mix where you have loud extreme L and R and centre but holes/gaps between the extremes.

If you listen to a lot of home/project studio rock genre recordings most of them are 'w' mixes. People here seem to like the rhythm guitar wall of sound type effect but pan all the stereo recordings often to the extreme L and R and place the monos in to the centre. On the stereo panned instruments some are mixed for phase but few make use of Haas. So the image is loud and has stereo spread but lacks density and depth and sits out at the extreme L/R with the mono lead vox/bass/kick drum stuck in the middle and with little between them and the extremes. Sometimes you get yet more of the same stereo rhythm guitar panned a little way off the extreme L/R but the mix still has holes in the panorama and TBH sounds boring.

Arguably the best L/R balance is none of the aforementioned ones but one where the entire stereo panorama is used so that instruments are placed across it without gaps and holes. It nearly always means that the engineer hasn't used hard L hard R to pan, for instance, rhythm guitars. You might be hearing this - it results from understanding how to pan instruments to make full use of the panorama so that there aren't holes/gaps and in using appropriate panning laws to ensure level.

Again a lot of home/project mixes do not seem to understand/be aware of the panning laws for their particular mixer/daw and audio project and so you get poor level balancing across the panorama because they mixed the individual instruments centred and then panned to L or R but without paying attention to the pan law and any subsequet fader change needed.

So as a conclusion, I kind of think that what you may be hearing is more to do with a mix that uses the panorama well and pays attention to panning laws proprely. The weaker mix is probably more a 'W' with poor attention to panning and panning laws.





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Ben Higgins
post Mar 22 2012, 10:35 AM
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Very cool post Tony, thanks. I think I'm guilty of a lot of W & V type mixes... I shall be paying more attention to this now smile.gif


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The Uncreator
post Mar 22 2012, 08:33 PM
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Answered everything I asked, and I learned about 2 more things.

Awesome, thank you!
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