Mix Report – 5/17/15

This week could be fairly easily summed up in the word struggle.  Some days in the studio, nothing feels right.  Some weeks in the studio feel like a string of shitty days.  Pushing on, and remembering that the project is possible, is a big part of it.  And of course, figuring out what the fuck’s wrong about the mix… is the other.

This week was mostly centered around SRDTRS.  Of the 10 hours I spent mixing this week, 7 went to that song.  Mostly, I was trying to get past the latest veil of shit.  Obscured by reverb… again.  It’s amazing how at one point all that reverb sounded great.  Ah well, lesson learned  (again, but in a new way).

What’s this lesson exactly?

Everything can’t have all the reverb.

Removing the curtain, learn something new.  Unlike the previous couple weeks, I’ve been very focused in what many websites will call ‘the low mids’ – This is the range of 200-2k.  Last week I was spending a lot of time fighting with stuff around 5k (the mix was harsh).

Now, I’m not particularly fond of this range.  In part to how it’s describe.  200-2k is really like 4-ish blocks of frequencies that I care very much about for different reasons.  Although, I should admit, I haven’t known much about wrangling these frequencies outside of the 200-300Hz range.  You see, that range is the mud, and well, you’ll learn about mud pretty quickly.

Thinking that my issues were in the mud, I spent a lot of time trimming it down.  Part of my problem is, I’m still learning my monitors.  One whole session in this range almost exclusively aaaand I overshot my goal, and managed to turn up the 100Hz stuff too much at the same time (you see, too much in 100Hz in my studio sounds beautiful to me, but not so much anywhere else).

Back in the studio again, to put some of that… mud… back.  No one likes a thin mix.  So wait, where was my issue?

Actually SRDTRS has a couple of pretty exciting guys competing for the 700-1k range.  Hrm.  This isn’t an area I’ve traditionally had problems with.  Having too much in here mudded things up… in a non-muddy way.  How do I describe it?  I don’t know, but hearing it made my ears want to explode.

But figuring that out… I was able to get the mix into a pretty good place.  Haven’t listened back to the changes from this morning but…  soon… very soon.

That said, I’m burning out pretty hard on that track (every listen to the same song for 10 hours a week, three weeks in a row?).  Once during the week, and a two hour session this weekend were spent touching up The Accident.  My first pass on this mix left is hard, but also distant.

What do I meant, distant?  To a point, I want all my sounds to sit reasonably close together.  It’s one thing to achieve separate, hearable instruments in a mix… it’s another to have them nuzzle into each other with gentle closeness that doesn’t detract from a sound’s personality.

I’ve noticed that my pattern with mixes is:

  1. Get all the stuff in there
  2. Get it not to clash too much
  3. Bring it in closer…
  4. Closer…
  5. Closer…

It’s a lot of nudging, particularly with faders and eq.   The Accident never got the closer treatment… and so it has.  As well as some love in balance/groove department (yep, went into the midi editor one more time to groove it a little more).

All of that is fine and good.  But The Accident suffers from a more substantial problem.  One I’ve always known about, but haven’t been very willing to deal with.

I made a shitty recording of the kimbala.

What’s kimbala?  Like a music box you can play with your fingers.  Look it up if you want to know more.  The important part here to note is – I made a shitty recording of it.  A long, long time ago.  And then… I built a song around that shitty recording.

Mixing to my new standard has been damn near impossible due to this shitty recording.  But, it’s not as though there’s a simple fix.  Consider my options:

  1. Try to record it again.  This means I have to remember how to play it, and setup the recording space.  It may not go that well since I made it up as I was playing it the first time.
  2. Throw out the recording, put another instrument in.  This hurts a little bit emotionally.
  3. Polish the shit out of the turd, and lie to people a bit.

Lie to people?  Hey, sometimes when shit doesn’t work, you can throw effects on it and call it art.  “I made it super lo-fi man.”  I’m leaning toward option 3, but if you read this blog, you’ll know where I short changed you.

  • The balance of frequencies in the recording is fucking miserable.  It’s like intense around 600, and everywhere else it’s a pain.
  • I didn’t record it loud enough and after compression I’ve boosted the noise floor.  Because of how the sound plays and some other aesthetics I’ve chosen, I’m calling it lo-fi.
  • I got click track bleed from the headphones.  Fuck.
  • Did I mention the shitty balance of frequencies?

Yea, I built a song around a shitty recording, and now I’m trying to add glitter to a piece of shit.  Ah well, I just listened back to today’s bounce… and hey, it’s no Bach, but it’s okay.

Finally, I’m getting back to Self Worth.  I originally thought this song was going super well and super easy.  Then I trained my ear some more and realized the mix fucking sucked ass.  So, I’ve been back at it.  But i’ve been struggling.

I attempted to apply all the things I’ve been learning with SRDTRS:

  • Watch my reverbs
  • Keep things close together
  • Listen for those frequency ranges I’ve only recently learned how to hear.

Sadly, this isn’t working.  I think I made some headway today.  I made some poor compositional choices.  Luckily, this is all synthetic, so I can fix it.  What’s the problem?  Well, there are two:

  1. I don’t know how to mix a string orchestra.  It’s kinda hard.
  2. I really don’t know how to mix a string orchestra with split sections (you can take violins 1 and make them into three parts).
  3. More important, (i said there were two, I lied), I’m a novice at writing for strings.

Yea, shoulda kept it simple.  But I didn’t.  After trying to layer too many things, doing too much stuff I realized… I need to compose at my skill level.

  • Simple string orchestra – 4 voices
  • Don’t use two of the same voice at one time, unless you know how to do mixing things that I cannot.
  • Step the fuck away after you’re ears are fatigued and you’re getting ready to quit music.

Yea, I started turning stuff off.  Well, and I started un-doing a lot of cracked out stuff I had done to get thing to fix.  I flatted Eq’s and re-did them.  In a way, I reset the strings entirely (I mixed the whole section soloed for a bit so I could better understand how the strings were relating to each other, and how to clue in on what parts of the orchestral sound were coming from which section).

That said, I had one instrument, non-string, that was just a muddy mess.  Well, perception of frequencies is very relative.  I adjusted the cut-off on the synth to bring some of of the synth’s natural highs in.  Worked like a charm and helped the whole mix, too.

That’s about it.  Only one other thing to mention, and if you know me, I’ve been really trying not to do this but this week…

I started automating my EQ’s.  But just a little.  Trying to account for fatness in a sound when it’s playing by itself.  Mostly automation on my high pass filters.

Ready to put SRDTRS down.  Hoping that The Accident is close and I can iterate on it, and Self Worth throughout the week.  Was thinking of making next weekend special and getting into one of the tracks I haven’t spent much time on yet.  It would certainly be refreshing to my ears to do something else for a little bit.