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  • OT-Mixing question

    So, there are a lot of albums out there, and a lot of them sound REALLY different. I`m just wondering what the standard is for a master mix when they all sound so different. Can anyone elaborate?


  • #2

    Actually, while there are guidelines and recommendations for things like levels, there really are no "standards" when it comes to the actual mix aesthetics.


    Just one example - compare the records of the band The Cars. Early recordings (up until Shake It Up) were produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who I happen to like a great deal. The general public seemed to prefer the records that were produced by Mutt Lange, at least if sales figures are any indication. While I like Mutt's work with them (and really like his work with AC/DC), I think I prefer the sound and feel of the stuff the Cars did with RTB.


    Same band, same basic instrumentation, same quirky songs - completely different sounding recordings.


    And sometimes that's a very good thing.


     

    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

    Comment


    • redEL34
      redEL34 commented
      Editing a comment

      Phil O'Keefe wrote:

      Actually, while there are guidelines and recommendations for things like levels, there really are no "standards" when it comes to the actual mix aesthetics.

      Just one example - compare the records of the band The Cars. Early recordings (up until Shake It Up) were produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who I happen to like a great deal. The general public seemed to prefer the records that were produced by Mutt Lange, at least if sales figures are any indication. While I like Mutt's work with them (and really like his work with AC/DC), I think I prefer the sound and feel of the stuff the Cars did with RTB.

      Same band, same basic instrumentation, same quirky songs - completely different sounding recordings.

      And sometimes that's a very good thing.

       


      Thank you, man, you`re a weath of information.


    • quickie1
      quickie1 commented
      Editing a comment

      Phil O'Keefe wrote:

      Actually, while there are guidelines and recommendations for things like levels, there really are no "standards" when it comes to the actual mix aesthetics.

      Just one example - compare the records of the band The Cars. Early recordings (up until Shake It Up) were produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who I happen to like a great deal. The general public seemed to prefer the records that were produced by Mutt Lange, at least if sales figures are any indication. While I like Mutt's work with them (and really like his work with AC/DC), I think I prefer the sound and feel of the stuff the Cars did with RTB.

      Same band, same basic instrumentation, same quirky songs - completely different sounding recordings.

      And sometimes that's a very good thing.

       


      It was an interesting experience when I first started recording. Our first "session" was in a small, 16 track, 2 inch tape studio with an engineer who "spliced" the tape, (much to my amazement), as well as other tricks. The whole session lasted about 1 week for 6 songs. The finished product was quite impressive and was a great representation of how our band sounded.

      About 10 years later, we went to a "well known" studio, 24 track, 2 inch tape, with a well known producer and a vastly increased budget. The recording, at least to me, sounded polished and professional.....yet it lacked the "feel" of the that first recording made some years before.

      I have since written countless songs, hooks, verses, etc. and if my plan works out, I will record some more next year. This time I plan to be the "producer".

      I just feel that a professional "producer" has to much input into another's work and his own likes or dislikes may take the original feel of the music in another direction that the artist does not want to go in.

       

      It's like having a guy direct you how to be with your woman. YOU know what your lady likes and how she responds....you don't need someone else telling you what to do.

       


  • #3

    I think it is subjective and trendy. 

    Someone steps outside the norm and, if they are successful, their work is copied and it becomes the new norm.

     



    you can't control the wind but you can learn to sail

    contentment is true wealth

    Comment


    • #4
      Well, I read the thread and was about to chime in, but then I saw that Phil said pretty much everything that needed to be said. I just have a couple of things to add:

      No one has yet to mention the stereo field - it may go without saying, but I will bring it up nonetheless. Personally, I strive to place each sound source in its own "place/space" in the mix, and pan has a GREAT deal to do with that. At times, 5 - 10 degrees of pan can be the difference between two distinct instruments and mush Especially today and especially with sound sources often coming off virtual outputs, typically stereo - synths, samples, loops etc - there is a tendency to just pan the sounds L/R and have done. I find that practice HORRIBLE - the result is often total sonic mush, tons of various sounds just stacked right on top of one another. Unless that IS the desired effect, I work to separate them.

      Re: Phil's HPF philosophy - I largely agree, but I suspect I do far less if it than Phil does. At times, getting rid of the "room rumble" will take out (to my ear) something essential about the room tone, the elusive "glue" that brings it together - in those cases I try to "tune/shape" the room low end to not get in the way, but still be "felt".

      As for loudness, I often find that careful multi-band compression:limiting as the last stage of the mix buss will give me the same loudness result as all that HPF f*ckery, but without the "flatness", and with more dynamic range.

      And I agree with Phil 100% that the only time I master my own mixes is when there is no other option. I've gotten pretty good at it, I dare say, but still prefer to give it to a good mastering engineer.
      Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

      -- Vaclav Havel

      The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

      -- Carl Sagan


      Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

      -- Joseph Brodsky

      Comment


      • Phil O'Keefe
        Phil O'Keefe commented
        Editing a comment

        Personally, I strive to place each sound source in its own "place/space" in the mix, and pan has a GREAT deal to do with that. At times, 5 - 10 degrees of pan can be the difference between two distinct instruments and mush .png" border="0" alt=":smileywink:" title="Smiley Wink" /> Especially today and especially with sound sources often coming off virtual outputs, typically stereo - synths, samples, loops etc - there is a tendency to just pan the sounds L/R and have done. I find that practice HORRIBLE - the result is often total sonic mush, tons of various sounds just stacked right on top of one another.


        _____________________


         


        Preach it brother! I'm not a fan of hard-panned Big Mono stuff either. Panning is absolutey crucial... I do like to work on the mix levels in mono sometimes (and occasionally EQ too), and then seperate things out even further with the stereo placement and then fine-tune the levels if needed, but unless I'm trying to blend things or create a composite sound from two or more elements, I usually don't like to stack things in the same location in the stereo soundfield.


         


         


      • yumpy
        yumpy commented
        Editing a comment

        Red Ant wrote:
        Well, I read the thread and was about to chime in, but then I saw that Phil said pretty much everything that needed to be said. I just have a couple of things to add:

        No one has yet to mention the stereo field - it may go without saying, but I will bring it up nonetheless. Personally, I strive to place each sound source in its own "place/space" in the mix, and pan has a GREAT deal to do with that. At times, 5 - 10 degrees of pan can be the difference between two distinct instruments and mush Especially today and especially with sound sources often coming off virtual outputs, typically stereo - synths, samples, loops etc - there is a tendency to just pan the sounds L/R and have done. I find that practice HORRIBLE - the result is often total sonic mush, tons of various sounds just stacked right on top of one another. Unless that IS the desired effect, I work to separate them.

        Re: Phil's HPF philosophy - I largely agree, but I suspect I do far less if it than Phil does. At times, getting rid of the "room rumble" will take out (to my ear) something essential about the room tone, the elusive "glue" that brings it together - in those cases I try to "tune/shape" the room low end to not get in the way, but still be "felt".

        As for loudness, I often find that careful multi-band compression:limiting as the last stage of the mix buss will give me the same loudness result as all that HPF f*ckery, but without the "flatness", and with more dynamic range.

        And I agree with Phil 100% that the only time I master my own mixes is when there is no other option. I've gotten pretty good at it, I dare say, but still prefer to give it to a good mastering engineer.

        that's what i do, the rest of what you guys are talking about is all greek to me. 

        i wish i could do better/learn this stuff but i need to see and hear what does what, before i can actually use what i have, to the fullest. 

        just playing around with knobs doesn't get me too far as a template for all my tunes. 

        i like a "you are there listening" sound. like a live concert, so to speak. 

        it's really hard for me to get. 


      • coyote-1
        coyote-1 commented
        Editing a comment

        Red Ant wrote:
        Well, I read the thread and was about to chime in, but then I saw that Phil said pretty much everything that needed to be said. I just have a couple of things to add:

        No one has yet to mention the stereo field - it may go without saying, but I will bring it up nonetheless. Personally, I strive to place each sound source in its own "place/space" in the mix, and pan has a GREAT deal to do with that. At times, 5 - 10 degrees of pan can be the difference between two distinct instruments and mush Especially today and especially with sound sources often coming off virtual outputs, typically stereo - synths, samples, loops etc - there is a tendency to just pan the sounds L/R and have done. I find that practice HORRIBLE - the result is often total sonic mush, tons of various sounds just stacked right on top of one another. Unless that IS the desired effect, I work to separate them.

        Re: Phil's HPF philosophy - I largely agree, but I suspect I do far less if it than Phil does. At times, getting rid of the "room rumble" will take out (to my ear) something essential about the room tone, the elusive "glue" that brings it together - in those cases I try to "tune/shape" the room low end to not get in the way, but still be "felt".

        As for loudness, I often find that careful multi-band compression:limiting as the last stage of the mix buss will give me the same loudness result as all that HPF f*ckery, but without the "flatness", and with more dynamic range.

        And I agree with Phil 100% that the only time I master my own mixes is when there is no other option. I've gotten pretty good at it, I dare say, but still prefer to give it to a good mastering engineer.

        I'm not real big into mixing.  I just want a clean sound where everything is heard, roughly where it might be on a stage.

        So my model is, believe it or not, the Beatles' mono mixes from the old days. They were slammin', they were awesome. My stereo field is just slightly about panning. And I do that because my frame of reference is the live experience. If you go see a band in an arena and the lead guitar is panned all the way over on stage left where he is, how do the people on the other side of the hall ever hear him?


    • #5
      "And what's up with mixing on crappy speakers?"

      Once upon a time, most people's sound reproduction equipment left much to be desired. And so, in order for the records to "translate", engineers would simulate a crappy home stereo or car stereo to get a better idea of what their mixes might sound like "in the field". Most studios, in addition to large and near-field monitors, would also have either a stere pair or one mono-bridged Auratone tiny 3'' speaker, for those purposes (and also to check phase coherence of a mono-bridged stereo mix).

      These days even crappy computer speakers are capable of fairly decent reproduction, so it isn't as much of an issue.
      Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

      -- Vaclav Havel

      The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

      -- Carl Sagan


      Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

      -- Joseph Brodsky

      Comment


      • jorhay1
        jorhay1 commented
        Editing a comment

        Red Ant wrote:
        "And what's up with mixing on crappy speakers?"

        Once upon a time, most people's sound reproduction equipment left much to be desired. And so, in order for the records to "translate", engineers would simulate a crappy home stereo or car stereo to get a better idea of what their mixes might sound like "in the field". Most studios, in addition to large and near-field monitors, would also have either a stere pair or one mono-bridged Auratone tiny 3'' speaker, for those purposes (and also to check phase coherence of a mono-bridged stereo mix).

        These days even crappy computer speakers are capable of fairly decent reproduction, so it isn't as much of an issue.

        I have a vintage pair of Auratones from the 70's,,,,,,,,,,,,,

         

         

         

         

         

        just laying around, not being used for exactly this reason.


    • #6
      ^ PF mixes are like Valium to me - there's this pastel wash over everything, all the corners are rounded, etc... Everything is "perfect", but there is little excitement. And I say that as a PF fan.
      Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

      -- Vaclav Havel

      The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

      -- Carl Sagan


      Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

      -- Joseph Brodsky

      Comment


      • onelife
        onelife commented
        Editing a comment

        Red Ant wrote:

        ^ PF mixes are like Valium to me - there's this pastel wash over everything, all the corners are rounded, etc... Everything is "perfect", but there is little excitement. And I say that as a PF fan.


         I don't think Pink Floyd is trying to be exciting.


      • Phil O'Keefe
        Phil O'Keefe commented
        Editing a comment

        For an interesting comparsion between mixing styles and approaches, put on Pink Floyd DSOTM sometime, and then put on Steely Dan's The Royal Scam... Roger Nichols and Alan Parsons definitely had different styles and approaches. I'm a huge fan of Pink Floyd, but I was definitely more influenced by Roger's work than Alan's.


      • quickie1
        quickie1 commented
        Editing a comment

        Red Ant wrote:
        ^ PF mixes are like Valium to me - there's this pastel wash over everything, all the corners are rounded, etc... Everything is "perfect", but there is little excitement. And I say that as a PF fan.

        Really? You must be listening to a different band than I.


    • #7
      Post DSotM, I'd agree with you, Red Ant. Up to and including that album, most of the mixes were pretty ballsy.
      flip the phase

      Comment


      • #8
        ^ Edit: I meant Gaucho - Aha was analog
        Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

        -- Vaclav Havel

        The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

        -- Carl Sagan


        Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

        -- Joseph Brodsky

        Comment


        • chuckgp
          chuckgp commented
          Editing a comment

          Aha?


      • #9
        Aja. Posting from a phone.
        Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

        -- Vaclav Havel

        The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

        -- Carl Sagan


        Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

        -- Joseph Brodsky

        Comment


        • chuckgp
          chuckgp commented
          Editing a comment

          Red Ant wrote:
          Aja. Posting from a phone.

          OK

          Not reported


      • #10
        Ime, phone ins can work fine, if you're prepared to be flexible in your aesthetic outlook and accept that you will end up re-editing and taking a different approach to the mix in order to accommodate any magic that may happen in someone else's music room/studio/kitchen/wherever.

        If you start dictating your artistic vision to collaborators on the other side of the country, or the world, you are indeed going to end up with something fairly stiff and soulless. The trick is to accept and showcase the various ideas into a coherent whole.
        flip the phase

        Comment


        • quickie1
          quickie1 commented
          Editing a comment

          gubu wrote:
          Ime, phone ins can work fine, if you're prepared to be flexible in your aesthetic outlook and accept that you will end up re-editing and taking a different approach to the mix in order to accommodate any magic that may happen in someone else's music room/studio/kitchen/wherever.

          If you start dictating your artistic vision to collaborators on the other side of the country, or the world, you are indeed going to end up with something fairly stiff and soulless. The trick is to accept and showcase the various ideas into a coherent whole.

          The "magic" happens when the band records the music.

          "The trick", is what happens in the mixing.

           


      • #11
        I understand what you mean, Quickie. There is no substitute for the vibe of a good band in a room. But since the dawn of multitrack recording, records don't always get made that way. And in the age of drum modules and synths, even less so.

        Tell me that Detroit House music sounds 'sterile', or that Sgt Pepper's sounds soulless, yet both rely heavily on multitrack 'construction' techniques.

        Ime, plenty of magic can arise from someone playing along with your backing track, or from making a completely new arrangement out of your basic song tracks. You just have to be open to it.
        flip the phase

        Comment


        • #12
          Preach on, brother Phil!!
          Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

          -- Vaclav Havel

          The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

          -- Carl Sagan


          Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

          -- Joseph Brodsky

          Comment


          • #13
            ^ back in the days of 2'' tape, you could depend in the tape to give you some compression and saturation. Which worked especially nice on bass. These days, you either create it before the a/d conversion, or add it with emulation after.
            Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

            -- Vaclav Havel

            The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

            -- Carl Sagan


            Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

            -- Joseph Brodsky

            Comment


            • quickie1
              quickie1 commented
              Editing a comment

              Red Ant wrote:
              ^ back in the days of 2'' tape, you could depend in the tape to give you some compression and saturation. Which worked especially nice on bass. These days, you either create it before the a/d conversion, or add it with emulation after.

              So, in other words, you distort the original track?


            • tock
              tock commented
              Editing a comment

              Red Ant wrote:
              ^ back in the days of 2'' tape, you could depend in the tape to give you some compression and saturation. Which worked especially nice on bass. These days, you either create it before the a/d conversion, or add it with emulation after.

              I looked into that too.  I was checking for 15IPS machines but I got put off by the lack of people who can service them.  I was going to buy it more for mastering than tracking. 


          • #14

            There are a lot of engineers (unlike a lot of the people who praise analog but have never had much experience using it) who have spent tons of time with both analog and digital, and who generally prefer digital. Anton went into some of the reasons earlier in the thread when he described the things about 2" tape and machines that he didn't miss - the calibration and alignment, SMPTE lock times, etc.


            For me, I really appreciate that what I put in is generally what I get back out from a good digital system. With analog, it was always a bit of a guessing game. You had to guess how much of a head bump you'd get on the bottom (~100 Hz or so) with that particular sound source, and so you tried to compensate going in and hoped that it would come out the way you wanted it to. Same with the highs. With analog tape, the more you play the tape, the more highs you loose. After a month of tracking, overdubs, etc. you could lose a notable amount of top end. And when you EQ analog, you don't want to add highs if you can avoid it, because that tends to emphasize the noise (another analog issue), so you tended to print brighter going in, hoping to compensate for the loss of highs that occurs during the production process - again, hoping that it would be in the ballpark by the time you were mixing it.


            Noise, distortion and stuff like that are things we've grown accustomed to - that we "expect" to hear, because it was present in the music we grew up with. I don't totally dislike noise and distortion, but I'd rather have the opportunity to determine exactly how much of it I want, and where - and not be forced to accept a predetermined, machine-set amount of it whether I like it or not.


            Analog does have its positive attributes, and I still use analog tape as a "signal processor" for some things - I do like tape compression. But if I was forced to pick one recording system or the other to use exclusively, it would be digital, hands down.

            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

            Comment


            • tock
              tock commented
              Editing a comment

              Phil O'Keefe wrote:

              Analog does have its positive attributes, and I still use analog tape as a "signal processor" for some things - I do like tape compression. But if I was forced to pick one recording system or the other to use exclusively, it would be digital, hands down.


               

              The digital aspect is how most of the best mixers get their material (dozens of tracks), but then its fed through an assload of analog EQ compressors etc with a few plugins used here and there.  And it's usually dumped to tape after that during mastering.

              And like I said earlier, on the way in it goes through that analog stuff when it is captured with sweet ass'd pres, console strips and racks.

              One thing that kinda blew me away was how cheap some of the mics are that are used on seminal albums that sound amazing.  SM57's used on the vocals for Michael Jacksons Billie Jean etc etc.  So the craft is important rather than gear (both engineer, mixer, producer and artist).  

              I just wish I had more time to work that aspect.  And when I do start getting better at it, my voice or guitar suffers because I am spending too much time researching what mic Jackson used...Then there is the songwriting...Not enough hours man!


            • redEL34
              redEL34 commented
              Editing a comment

              Phil O'Keefe wrote:

              There are a lot of engineers who (unlike a lot of the people who praise analog) who have spent tons of time with both analog and digital, and who generally prefer digital. Anton went into some of the reasons earlier in the thread when he described the things about 2" tape and machines that he didn't miss - the calibration and alignment, SMPTE lock times, etc.

              For me, I really appreciate that what I put in is generally what I get back out from a good digital system. With analog, it was always a bit of a guessing game. You had to guess how much of a head bump you'd get on the bottom (~100 Hz or so) with that particular sound source, and so you tried to compensate going in and hoped that it would come out the way you wanted it to. Same with the highs. With analog tape, the more you play the tape, the more highs you loose. After a month of tracking, overdubs, etc. you could lose a notable amount of top end. And when you EQ analog, you don't want to add highs if you can avoid it, because that tends to emphasize the noise (another analog issue), so you tended to print brighter going in, hoping to compensate for the loss of highs that occurs during the production process - again, hoping that it would be in the ballpark by the time you were mixing it.

              Noise, distortion and stuff like that are things we've grown accustomed to - that we "expect" to hear, because it was present in the music we grew up with. I don't totally dislike noise and distortion, but I'd rather have the opportunity to determine exactly how much of it I want, and where - and not be forced to accept a predetermined, machine-set amount of it whether I like it or not.

              Analog does have its positive attributes, and I still use analog tape as a "signal processor" for some things - I do like tape compression. But if I was forced to pick one recording system or the other to use exclusively, it would be digital, hands down.


              I`m not an engineer, but I like to play one. My best-sounding personal recordings were done on 2". It just sounds warm, and like the classic recordings I love. But I understand I can`t have a 2" system in a bedroom..png" alt=":smileytongue:" title="Smiley Tongue" />


            • quickie1
              quickie1 commented
              Editing a comment

              Phil O'Keefe wrote:

              There are a lot of engineers (unlike a lot of the people who praise analog but have never had much experience using it) who have spent tons of time with both analog and digital, and who generally prefer digital. Anton went into some of the reasons earlier in the thread when he described the things about 2" tape and machines that he didn't miss - the calibration and alignment, SMPTE lock times, etc.

              For me, I really appreciate that what I put in is generally what I get back out from a good digital system. With analog, it was always a bit of a guessing game. You had to guess how much of a head bump you'd get on the bottom (~100 Hz or so) with that particular sound source, and so you tried to compensate going in and hoped that it would come out the way you wanted it to. Same with the highs. With analog tape, the more you play the tape, the more highs you loose. After a month of tracking, overdubs, etc. you could lose a notable amount of top end. And when you EQ analog, you don't want to add highs if you can avoid it, because that tends to emphasize the noise (another analog issue), so you tended to print brighter going in, hoping to compensate for the loss of highs that occurs during the production process - again, hoping that it would be in the ballpark by the time you were mixing it.

              Noise, distortion and stuff like that are things we've grown accustomed to - that we "expect" to hear, because it was present in the music we grew up with. I don't totally dislike noise and distortion, but I'd rather have the opportunity to determine exactly how much of it I want, and where - and not be forced to accept a predetermined, machine-set amount of it whether I like it or not.

              Analog does have its positive attributes, and I still use analog tape as a "signal processor" for some things - I do like tape compression. But if I was forced to pick one recording system or the other to use exclusively, it would be digital, hands down.


              And the Bay City Rollers sold millions of albums.

              My main feeling....is and ever will be, the sound. So analog is more "difficult" to set up.

               

              "All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get"

              -Confucius.

               


          • #15
            Methinks quickie is conflating "music" and "sound" - thereby moving the goalposts yet again, and further away.
            Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

            -- Vaclav Havel

            The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

            -- Carl Sagan


            Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

            -- Joseph Brodsky

            Comment


            • redEL34
              redEL34 commented
              Editing a comment

              Red Ant wrote:
              Methinks quickie is conflating "music" and "sound" - thereby moving the goalposts yet again, and further away.

              I think we`d all love to have a giant console, 2" tape, 2 huge racks of vintage effects, the space, etc....but that is, unfortunatly, like using tubes in computers. It works, but it`s just too expensive, and too huge.



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