Low End

Recently I purchased a vehicle that has two 12″ subs in the rear seat compartment.          Like most of you I thought, Hmmm….I wonder what my latest mixes sound like on “this” system?

My current mixing set-up consists of monitors with 8″ subs, low fi desktop speakers, and a few pairs of headphones to compare my mixes on, along with my usual car listening during commutes.

I fired up the last 7 or so songs I’ve done, and wow the bass was huge. I was a bit worried leading up to the listen since I noticed way more bass on general listening. While the music I mixed had more bass on that system, it wasn’t overly present in the mix. I usually roll off quite a bit on the kick and bass tracks to clean up the low, low material. If I can bypass those two types of tracks, and the bottom falls out, I know the rest of the tracks are clean in the low end, generally I’ve also done some massive roll-off for all the other tracks as well to clean up the bottom so there isn’t much present in the lows except bass and kick.

Listening to the tracks on the “sub” system taught me a few things. I would love to hear those lows during the mix or tracking phase, but I also didn’t mix them where the mixes fell apart when playing them back. In a way is was pretty cool hearing the bass come through with so much power. I was surprised as how low some notes sounded considering they were in standard tuning A-440 on pretty much all the songs.

I am glad I chose to roll off the lowest frequencies on the low end prominent tracks. This kept the low end from blowing up in the bass enhanced environment of the newly acquired truck. Another mixer asked me about rolling off lows on the bass / kick, and we both agreed you don’t really need a bunch of low, low information. I’ve even scaled back the bass up to 70hz before, just to clean up and make room for the kick, or vice versa.

It really only matters what the entire mix sounds like to begin with. If you’ve set your low point from the beginning, and got a great sound, it will carry over no matter what the system.  Just learn the system you’re listening back on before doing any drastic decisions based upon what your hearing. I had to listen to a few types of music to get a feel for this new set-up. Then I listened back to my mixes knowing what to expect. Had I only listened on that system, I would have thought my lows were too loud and scaled them back.

A decision needs to be made as to whether or not the bass or the kick wins in the lows department. It’s pretty much dependent on the song. Rock music can have it either way depending on a fast or slower tempo and focal point of the track.

Low end can cause a mix to get muddy and unfocused sounding  very quickly.

Not building the low end up is the key to getting the lows you “need” and the bottom end you don’t need removed.




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Guide to Mixing (Part 2)

Guide to Mixing (Part 2)

Now that you’ve gotten the basic balance and volume set on your tracks. Removed the distracting issues: room tone, ringing on the drums, build up on the bass, sibilance on the vocal, etc. It’s time for the 2nd reaction phase. Only this time you’re not reacting to problems, only moments in the track.

This is when you can get creative with the song. Filtering out sections, or muting parts. Changing tones between sections, etc. This is also where you can decide what space the track will being sitting it. It’s hard to tell the amount of spacial room needed if you’ve got distracting issues in your way. Now you are free to place the vocal, or drums in a space with reverb or delay, or add distortion on a vocal or bass etc. Effects won’t sound correct until the tracks are prepared for them and actually fit where they should before placing an effect on it. You’ll only end up with muddy reverb, delays, distortions, etc.

It’s at this stage automation begins to play a larger role in bringing the mix to life. Automation brings out dynamics. If you need a section, instrument, or line of the vocal to pop, automation will be the saving grace. Not just broad sweeping automation like a few dB up for the chorus or down for the bridge. I mean like lifting the drums up during a fill, automating guitars to be brighter during the chorus. Pushing reverb or delay tails out and the end of a lines etc. You may have heard people referring to the last 10% of a mix that really makes the mix what it is. In my opinion this is due to automation being done last, or nearly last. Not just corrective automation, but enhancing the dynamics.

Now you’ve used e.q., compressed, added effects and got a great static mix. Automation lets you transform and push anything you want in the mix to get the proper energy and balance across to the listener. Highlighting key moments and features of the track.

Here is when your song is now being fully supported by the music and vocal together. Most songs are pushing the vocal, supporting the message or energy that the vocalist is trying to get a crossed. Once you’ve cleaned up the distractions, emphasized the supporting moments through compression, e.q. and automation together, the song will have the emotional impact the band is working toward in the first place.

It’s during this final balancing stage the song will “feel” good when listening to it. You may have been initially struck by the song, but you get taken away from that as you are critically listening for issues and distractions. During these final moments if you’ve done your mixing job correctly, you’ll reconnect to the track as you did when you first listened to it. Physically moving to the song as a listener, without the technical issues being present any longer.

It’s a full circle moment, after your initial reaction, you begin sifting through the issues of a recording, searching for problems, then you’ll enhance all the great qualities of those tracks, finally elevating the entire track better than it was initially. Once again reacting to the emotion of the song, instead of the technical issues that distracted you once before. Then your mix should pretty much be finished. Maybe a revision or two. Some time away and feedback with fresh perspective and you’ll be ready to finalize the song.




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Guide to Mixing (Part 1)

Guide to Mixing (Part 1)

What does a mixer actually do? If you’ve been recording for nearly any length of time. And have been trying to get your tracks to sound like you wish they would. You’ll begin to notice that no matter what the quality level of your tracks are in solo they do not automatically fit together as a full mix.

Mixing number one is about getting emotion across from the song. Getting the listener to feel and connect to what they are being presented with. Part of getting the emotion across is removing what is distracting to the listener that’s preventing them from hearing what they should be focused on. Generally you begin each mix reacting to the song presented. If an issue takes you away from the song, take care of it so it does not distract from the song.

Once you have removed the problematic issues from your tracks you can then focus on the enhancement of the tracks.

The next duty of a mixer is: Bringing out the best part of each element in the track. Getting those tracks to sit together nicely with each other. IT DOES NOT MATTER, what they sound like by themselves. If the instruments are fighting over a vocal you have to take something away to get that vocal to shine through. If the kick and bass are taking up the same space one has to be carved out to let to the other through.

Finding the proper balance and volume for each element to be heard is the ultimate goal for the initial mix stage. Once you’ve gotten the balance relatively set and the tracks are starting to take shape, only then can you start to judge where the song will take you and how you can push it even further.

It’s at this point in the mix you begin to connect with the song. If there are distractions in the way you won’t connect because you’ll be turning your attention to the problems and not the stand out parts of the song. When the issues are addressed and the basic balance and volume are set. At this stage you can bring out the focal point of each track. You can then begin shaping the sounds to their fullest potential with E.Q. and compression.

Here is where the mix will start to have a life to it. At this point the dynamics and changes already in place in the song can have an impact on you. These can be further enhanced through effects and automation which will be discussed in part 2.



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