So the more and more I dive into this crazy world of music production the more I realize how important mixing is and even more important is how bad I am at it! I have been listening to all of Skarabees' tracks and notice how polished and full they sound. I have been experimenting with trying to visualize where in the mix to place sounds so that they don't become muddy and attempt to fill the entire stereo spectrum but can never get it to have that warm polished sound that others like skarabee and JBlann and others can get consistently.
So what are some tricks to achieving that next level pro sound?
Agree, I also feel that I have a lot to learn about this to avoid the tracks of being cluttered etc. Any tips would be highly appreciated.
If it can help, I can give some advices, and the first is: No magik tricks to make a good mix. Second could be: no magic mix can save a poorly composed music. Third is (and not only for music I guess): You have to learn some rules before trying to break them.
For me, the mix is already done if you have reached a good balanced music. Each instrument as to find his place. If you have to struggle to place your bass or piano or whatever, maybe you'll have to change your line, or the octave. I think all must fit before mixing. Your might consider the mixing as the make-up of your overall sound.
And then you can focus on technical tips. As I said, no shortcut to knowledge. The more you know about frequencies or dynamics, the more you will be technically efficient. But if your ears are not trained to focus on specific ranges of dynamics or frequencies, and if you have no clear idea of the goal to reach, technical tips are useless (well, most of time ;-). The deal is to keep a good balance between analytic ear and global feeling.
No matter what DAW you use, from Caustic to CuReaTools, there are many ways to use the tools you have on board to achieve your goal, or to experiment. Many ways to use a compressor on a drum track, many way to place sounds in space. Of course, some tools are more efficients than others, but even high-end system can produce some bad music (do you REALLY need examples, lol). On the other hands, some good music was made with rustic tools. Honestly, I was very surprised by the sound that can come from a tiny phone app like Caustic.
Its diffficult, at least for me, to resume all the involved work for a good mix in a single post, all this in english. But I'll try to answer to specific questions about technical and/or artistic stuff. I say artistic, because most of time, if you read the comment on Soundcloud for example, you certainly noticed that people are not speaking as techs, but rather in emotional terms. If I can help to translate some emotions and visions to music, I'll do it.
Yeah and potentially its only going to get worse when we get more tracks to play with in a future Caustic update - I'm terrible for just adding more sounds to a track.
I read an article in a music technology mag years ago about this issue. Among the things it said was not to make everything in the mix fight each other for the same place in the audio spectrum: if you've got for instance a big, bright sounding synth on one track don't be afraid to 'dull down' a 2nd synth by losing some high or mid eq. Even if it sounds a bit dull in isolation it won't be clashing so much with the 1st big bright synth in the mix. Maybe the parametric eq could help even more with this.
I guess this principle could apply to everything in the mix: pan some sounds to the left, others to the right and leave some in the middle (especially important if they're similar sounds). Don't do what I usually end up doing: adding delay and reverb to everything! It stands to reason that things are gonna get messy if you do this... I'm guilty of adding width to everything too - leave some sounds 'thin'. Again they probably won't sound so good in isolation but they'll sit more comfortably in the mix.
Monitor your rough mixes as you go on different hi-fi equipment. I'll make rough mixes of my tunes to try on a variety of different equipent. I'll try my stuff out on 2 or 3 different headphones, car stereo (where's the bass gone!), kitchen radio, living room hi-fi etc etc I'm always amazed at how different they sound. Try and get something that some acceptable on all of them.
Anyway, my stuff always sounds a bit of a mess so what do I know. Over to the experts?
Wooow this is great stuff, thank you so much for taking the time educating us! These posts can be read over and over. I'll bookmark this URL :)
/: ice machine
I agree with the article. But if you song is well arranged, you should'nt have to much fight i your premix.
For the second part, I should have mentionned it first: On what are you mixing?
FPC, I did he same for years, listening in every possible situation. All I obtained was not-so-good, not-too-bad mixes. Now I have 2 speaker systems in the studio: One with small average self-powered proximity monitors, the other is a 2.1 system with a power amp wich I use for years. I also monitor some specific part on a D770pro headphone. I work on Caustic connected to a pair of cheap 10 W monitors (but in wooden case, not plastic).
I agree with ice-machine. This is all very helpful.
I've been exploring the mastering side of things recently too. It's a whole skill in itself, as much of an art / skill as writing the song in the first place I'd say. Skarabee makes an excellent point that there is no magic formula and a good mix cannot save a poor song.
I'd echo a lot of the comments above. The first thing to try is changing the levels of different instruments and maybe the panning too. You could think about the types of sounds in a song so that you don't have too many high or low sounds all competing for the same space or too many similar sounds. These are fairly simple and easy things to experiment with and will hopefully help to train your ear over time to explore what difference it makes.
Jason (JBlann) put me onto compression, I can't remember whether this was in a post or in a caustic file he uploaded. This can help to make space in a song by squashing sounds or evening out some volume differences. Even subtle use can makes a big difference.
The other thing I've been experimenting with is EQ. This has been a steep learning curve for me but you're basically filtering out unwanted frequencies. For instance if you filter low frequencies from a kick drum it can make space for a bass line to stand out. It basically makes the sounds less muddy. If you use VSTs, MEqualiser from Melda Productions seems very good and has a lot of presets to experiment with.
Another good point FPC makes above is to try and listen to the mix on different speakers. It sounds a bit counter productive but I use some cheap headphones that were bundled with my phone. The reason for this is that although the bass response is pretty weedy, the overall balance is strangely quite good so if the mix sounds ok then I know it will be there or thereabouts. If one track really stands out then the balance is wrong.
I'm always keen to stress on here and in blog posts that you don't need loads of equipment or really expensive equipment to make music. Caustic itself does a fantastic job for an app, you can pretty much do all the mastering within it. However, there are loads of free VSTs that you can use to make and shape sounds and experiment with. There are also lots of tutorials available for free on the Sound on Sound website, Computer Music is also an excellent source for information, instruments and effects and usually has various tutorials each month.
I think Scarabee took most of the words outta my mouth.... Content, balance, take your time.
But also, drop a Compressor on the master strip IFX... Properly set in accordance with a smooth mix, it will give a nice "mastered" edge you may ne looking for..... But watch your Low Eq settings on your bass and kick drum sounds...... My tip-- back off all Low Eq settings approx -2db or so and boost the master Low Eq approx. +2db, and for starters your master compressor should make your mix shimmer nicely.....
I'm using the dt770 pro 250ohm headphones for final mixes but most of my production is done on ear buds while I'm at work which aren't the greatest to use. I then listen to the track on at least 3 different systems where I can really hear how bad the track sounds.
I guess my most challenging problems come from mixing the drums, and basses. I like to create very bass heavy tracks so I side chain all of the lower end material to the drum track and in the mixer kill all the lower end for synths, leads and mid to high end by either adjusting the bass knob to zero or use the eq and notch everything below 100hz. The same goes for the bass but opposite, kill the high end. As hard as I try to make it sound good I just can't seem to make it have that polished sound, I even layer my drums but they sound very flat when played on anything but headphones.
Currently my method for finding muddy parts is to identify what sound I want to shine through more and mute other tracks to see what is occupying the same frequencies and try to use panning, reverb, or width to move things around in the soundscape. Are there better ways to do this?
mekanism this sounds interesting - gonna give it a go. I didn't (and still don't really) know what side chaining is but its time to learn. The only time I've experimented with compression I was underwhelmed but I didn't really know what it could do. This looks like a good read: http://homerecording.com/bbs/general-discussions/mixing-techniques/what-...
FPC, keep in mind you can use too much compression so use it sparingly. My goal with side chaining is simply using it to "duck" the bass out of the way when the kick drum hits to keep the punch in the drum and not muddy up the tracks as both are fighting for the same frequencies. Another fun thing to do is use it on synths to get the pumping effect which is widely used in many electronic tracks these days.
I was starting to think that the sound quality issues I'm having were caustic itself but after hearing how good skarabees tracks sound I now know it is me not doing something right. Maybe I'm trying too hard to jam as many sounds in as possible and should simplify things. In any case I have to remember I'm still a beginner and have so much to learn.
Hey Mekenism: Wanna send me your Caustic Song File? I be happy to poke around with it if you like and kick it back to you, see if it helps you....
I think I'm gonna make a YT video about mixing and "mastering" with the Caustic App.... because there's an easy way to get "that" sound setup, that can be fine-tuned later.... and you don't have to have a pro-sound ear to do it.
I'm gonna put that near the top of my video project list this Spring....
Also note, there is an "art" to managing your bass sounds vs. your kick drum.... it can be done without overpowering the Master Compressor which can result in undesired "pumping" in a non-rhythmic fashion... I'll explain about that later.... probably in a Tips and Tricks thread later tonight, since there's a growing interest in this subject.
All of my tracks are "mastered" with the Caustic App itself... I don't recall using any outside audio handler to master anything I have made to date.
btw..... ducking doesn't always work...... oh crap did I just say that lol
J, I can send you my project when it's more complete. Right now its only half done. It takes me 4 times longer to produce now that I am a dad.
Also, I may have caused some confusion with the title of this thread, I should have called it "mixing and eqing?". When I think of mixing I think of mixing everything together to get a cohesive sound which generally includes eqing but maybe not to be consfused with a mixdown.
J, a mixing, eqing, and mastering tutorial would be awesome and would greatly benefit the caustic community!
I'll be happy to do it...... I feel you man.... I'm a dad of 2 young girlies, and it makes me pace myself on this project here lol.
I think I'll start prepping it tonight, see how fast I can throw something up to show you a few of my secrets... Builderz Project sounds helps make it easier too, to be able to lay down a groove fast and efficiently with minimal efforts.... works great for busy moms and dads, as there are many here on this forum...
Some great tips here, thanks guys. I don't really have much to add as I'm not much of a composer. But one rule I've kept for my sound engineering days that's stuck with me:
Crap in = crap out.
If you're using samples, make sure they're not full of noise of too wide in frequency spectrum, unless they're meant to play in solo bits. I know a lot of the included presets in the app go completely against this and it's something I'd like to fix going forward. But just because a sample sounds great when you listen to it by itself, doesn't mean it'll play nice with others. It's a team sport and there's not much place for heroes (apart from solos, rock n' roll!)
Now, I'll sneak in that I've been looking at adding more tracks to the app and this is one of my biggest fears... Beginners don't really need more tracks, I certainly can't use more than 6 or 7. I also am guilty of overusing delay and reverb to smooth things out, but it ends ups making a mess.
The new synths I have going now will focus on filling in particular sound types (cleaner frequency ranges), and the entire audio engine has been moved to 32bit to preserve the low noise internally while it's all being combined. I'm also looking at a few more mastering tools like a limiter on the output, I'm just afraid that'll become a crutch for people to just crank everything and let the limiter worry about coming up with a mix, obviously that's not what it's there for.
Anyway, I'll step aside, there's some great nuggets in here. Carry on.
A few notes..... Limiter, as a final tool in the chain to ONLY correct the slightest bit of potential clipping from something that might have sneaked thru the mix.... especially poorly handled vocals --- "p", "t" and "s" sounds etc.... yeah and for tv/radio broadcast audio signal prep for delivery.
Yeah, watch your samples.... especially if you stretch them accross the keyboard old-school hardcore rave style... no the ParaEQ won't save ya there.... but shhhh!!! don't tell anyone, but I have made multisamples from a single sample recording of mine..... but it sounds sonically balanced accross the keyboard.... there is a secret to that.
But in the end..... break the "rules" a bit and let your ears find YOUR sound..... your music doesn't have to sound like most crap you hear on the radio...
Give it time, you will find it, and your mixes will tighten up and eventually sound awesome, even with the simple tools provided on this app. I don't regret dropping my DAW empire from yesteryear one bit, even with all the massive arsenal of tools I had at my disposal..... but that's a rant for another day.
I have to disagree with Rej ever so slightly about NOISE..... come on, you can't have everything sound pristine and clean..... sometimes you just gotta have nasty noisy mess in there..... Builderz Extreme presets prove it will make your tracks rock.
You make a good point rej about wide frequencies on samples. With many samples you can't even hear all of the material unless you are in a studio with decent monitors where all of the unheard artifacts of the sample show themselves. This can really muddy things up quick if you have several samples like this.
I wish there were some magic trick to making things sound really good but I think it will just take time and patience. I think of producing like learning an instrument, it takes time before you get things to sound sweet. I can still play a c scale on my trumpet but it sounds like ass because I have to learn it again which would take a year or more to be decent.
You would think that by using computers to make music making things sound really good would be easy, it must be treated like any other instrument, practice makes perfect!
If it were easy, then those people who say that "any idiot can press a bunch of buttons and get a track" and that "electronic music has no soul" would be right!
I just came out from a mixing session with a local band, so this a fresh testimony.
Always the same: Every member of the band wanted their part to sound FAT and LOUD. I had to explain them using an example, and maybe this could help here too.
WHen you have to take a photo, all depends of the number of subject and the size and definition of the picture. In a single portrait, I can detail the texture of the skin, but If I have to shoot a football team, I'll tell the biggest ones to stay behind and I will tell the others to sit in front. If I want the captain to be identified at first sight, I'll give him another colored tee shirt and place him in center of the picture. But don't expect to see skin texture on each member's face! If I have to put a full symphonic orchestra with 120 musicians on a 10x15 photo, you'll probably need a magnifying glass to identify someone.
The orchestra picture is a good image to compare with mixing. Who can identify clearly individual instruments in a big section? The footbal team is to illustrate what Rej said about collective sport. And for the picture itself, you can take it with your phone or use a Hasselblad.
You can go further and find yourself more similarities between picture and mix.
Oh, yes I forgot this, thanks Rej for mentionning this one, the ring that rule'em all, I learned it as: Garbage in, garbage out. (We have a more crude version in French, but I won't tell it here ;-)
Here in the UK we say, '' You can't polish a turd..!''
I haven't read through the whole thread yet, but i had an idea for maybe a sticky thread
when we finish a tune, we could make the caustic file available for others to tinker with, not changing the tune itself, but just tighting the EQ, panning, etc, cleaning up the sounds and the mix in general
I think seeing someone else's hand and ears over your creation would be hugely helpful...
of course we're all busy people and some might find it a tedious thing to do, but for me, the lesson with be invaluable
what do you think?
+1 for this idea. I was also thinking about a similar thing for community remixes of members songs. You post the caustic file and if someone fancies remixing they can.
Ive done just that for a few of u here... I find it a fun experience.... +1 for that idea...
Some people already do that, granted you have to provide hosting yourself right now, but most just set up a quick drop box account... but I love seeing the source project for stuff people create. Most of the time when I'm listening to the Soundcloud player I have a doubting Thomas moment where I have to see it running in the app to believe something so cool can be created with my little app.
Are you thinking something more formal ? I can always put a sticky to encourage people to post their projects along with the soundcloud, but it has to be up to the creator whether they share it or not. I understand not everyone wants to give away their hard work (or secrets).
Sounds like a good idea to me! JBlann has helped me with a track a while back and it was immensely helpful.
I have no fear of sharing anything I make, just be prepared to look at a huge mis mash of unorganized patterns and samples. Something like A1-B1-A4-B9-A9 lol!
I usually don't do this but - - - - -- Here You Go -- - - -
Get a peek at my techniques and Builderz Project in action..... this is an unfinished draft, but good enough for anyone to poke around and play with at will.
Enjoy and be inspired.
If I had time, it would be a pleasure to mix some tunes. And the next step should be: if I had to mix a Caustic tune for real, I will certainly do it in a bigger tool, with multiband Comp and sweet EQs. For now, I didn't even finish my last attempt on Caustic...
But it reminds me the sentence: "give a fish to a man, you will feed him for one day, teach him how to be a good fisherman, you save his life."
I think I can give some advices, tips and tricks, and help for specific problems. Maybe I could open a Caustic-specific blogspot for that, if there are enough demands, or maybe a new section could be added to the forum, like "Caustic workshop" or something like that.
Few weeks ago, I had an idea for a collaborative work, and I think this could be a good place to share and learn from one another. I will explain this in another topic.
I love the workshop idea!
Multi-band Comp would be sweet for Caustic.... at least a 2-band for CPU-friendly for mobile devices would be a nice tool..... I've used 5-band on Cubase before for some real shaping and firming up mixes.... But in all reality, I'm realizing that now all the big tools are not "absolutely necessary"... Caustic is a cool tool for users to sit down and make music, and be able to make it sound good quickly and efficiently....If one wants to "master" a track, they can export and move it to WaveLab or whatever tool big DAW users will finish up from there.... But in reality, for most of us, not really needed.
I personally enjoy using what is already there to get a good thick groovy sound, and just enjoy the music making process....
Scarabee's Sessions workshop I think is just the ticket to get everyone involved that wants to learn how to maximise the potential out of the Finest Pocket Music Workstation on the Planet.
Just for fun I am going to interject.
Mythbusters proved that statement "you can't polish a turd" to be incorrect. :P
The a quick question for the experts:
On my track VICED on soundcloud,it sounds blurred playing with five machines at once at one point.Why though?