#1
What you need. Recording 101
What stuff is. Recording 102
EQ Guide. Recording 103
Mic Positions. Recording 104
Mixing. Recording 105
Finishing. Recording 106

NOTE: These are guides and tips, they don't have to be done in any order (Except what you need and mic positioning of course) but don't take them as hard and fast rules because there are none.

This is starting to get more complicated, if you get confused try reading through my other guides.

So i have my recordings sounding good, how do i mix? Recording 105



So I probably shouldn't of put the EQ guide as number 3 but i did so hey.
So you've used these guides (or just yourself) to capture a good sound with your gear, your recorded sound is decent to good and you want to make it sound as good as possible, so whats next? Mixing!!
Now don't get confused with mastering, mastering is what you do AFTER everything is mixed, bounced down to a stereo track and is in preperation for a cd. You get a professional to do this because how can you improve something you've just mixed? You can make it louder, maybe discover some stuff on eq you forgot to do but thats about it.

Mixing is the process of setting levels, setting dynamics, automation (if digital), EQing, reverbing etc etc etc.

So lets go to it.


What i'm assuming you already have in your DAW (recording program) is a graphic EQ where you can select individual frequencies the Q (discussed earlier) and the gain of the eq. A reverb (there are so many free plugins out there its not funny just search google), a compressor, a limiter (you can use a compressor for this), a noise gate (once again not necessary but does help alot) and the ability to use busses and aux channels (not essential but you need it for a few of my tips). An EQ analyser always helps aswell as a delay for some cool effects.

So lets start of by theoretically saying you're mixing a song with a full drum kit (3 toms, one mic on snare, kick and 2 overheads), 2 guitars in the verses then an extra one in the chorus, Bass, Lead vocals and 2 backing vocals. This would be a rock song as that's what most people here want to do.

The reason i say such a big project is because that way i cover everything.

NOTE: This is the way I personally do things, as with all my guides, they are just that, guides not hard fast rules.

NOTE: Make sure you clearly label everything so you know what's going on.

NOTE: Don't mix for 7 hours straight, take breaks, give your ears a break. I guarentee you when you come back to it, even a day later, you'll hear something you missed or that you can improve.

NOTE: Cutting frequencies helps just as much as boosting them.

IMPORTANT!: One thing to remember about compression is that it multiplies not adds, so if you compress the kick at 4:1 then compress the drum bus track at 10:1 then the end result will be a 40:1 compression. Don't over compress if you don't need to.

So what i like to start with is the drums.

Drums

#1 Send all the drum outputs to its own aux channel (bus) which then goes to the master. Why? because this simplifies your workflow, if you want to JUST hear the drums, you just solo that bus. If you want the entire drum kit to go up or down in volume, don't adjust all the seperate channels, adjust the bus!
OPTIONAL: You could also send the overheads to its own bus which output then goes to the original drum bus., and add a stereo widener (if you have one) to make your kit sound bigger and wider.
OPTIONAL: You MAY also wish to add some reverb to your drum bus if they sound a bit dead or not roomy enough.

#2
Start with the kick drum. Use the EQ guide but a good beginning is to cut around 200-500hz boost around 130 and boost around 3-10khz. Next Gate the kick, make it so the kick comes through but nothing else, have the release just so it doesnt sound like a crappy sample, make it sound natural. Don't forget the overheads will fill in the gaps. Experiment around a bit and you'll get it. Generally start around -15db threshold. After you have a pretty decent sounding kick, time to add compression and a limiter (if you get clips at the volume you want). If you use the next technique just have a very light compression, if you don't use around a 4 or 5 to 1 ratio. If you use Logic then your compressor has a limiter built in.
OPTIONAL: My personal favourite way to do a kick is using parallel compression. Use a send to send the kick to a sperate bus (not the output just the send) and crush the bus channel to death with a compressor (really high ratio with a threshold around -20-25db) then eq a touch of boost around 130, and alot between 3-10khz. Adjust the levels of the bus til you get the right amount of punch and huge sounding kick. You MAY want to add reverb to this bus to get an even bigger sound its up to you. But if you want a clicky but punchy kick drum with a tight bottom end this is how i do it.
As with all the drums, use the eq guide to get your desired results and experiment til you get YOUR sound YOU want.

#3 Snare drum. Snares are pretty simple. Once again look at the EQ guides for ideas, but what i personally like to do is add or cut 200hz to add more woody sound to the snare, and add between 3-10k to add the crack and attack of the snare. Try and keep an eye on your EQ analyser if you have one (you generally can't clip heaps by adding higher frequencies its usually the lower ones. but still be careful that you don't crowd the frequencies between the kick and snares, just play around til you get a happy medium and crowd them only if you have to. Next Gate the snare, same as the kick, nice an easy and have a bigger release time so you get the resonance of the snare as well. Now you add some reverb to the snare, i like plate reverb on my snares personally but you can experiment with room or spring as well. Just mix in the amount you want depending on if you want a modern fairly present snare or a huge 80s snare.

#4 Toms. Toms are probably the easiest next to overheads. You CAN gate the toms, its up to you but it can make it sound pretty weird as when the toms get hit (you obviously need a long release to capture the resonance) it will also capture things around it so when the gate gets cut it may sound like sound is randomly coming in and out of the drums which isn't too pleasant. EQ to taste, you may want to EQ the fundamental that your toms are tuned to, if it has too much slap, EQ some high end out, too much boomyness, EQ out some low mids. Toms are really a taste thing and i can't really suggest heaps to do with them, if the toms are recorded well i don't even bother eqing the toms unless they need that extra bit of resonance. You MAY want to compress if the toms are too loud and too soft in parts, compression will even that out. Or if its just the occasional clipping, just slap a limiter on it (or compressor with a very high ratio and a threshold of -0.5db and no gain. I'll say this again and again, just look at the eq guide and play around with it to see if you find something you like.

#5 Overheads/Cymbals. Ok OHs are the easiest, just cut everything below 600hz with a high pass filter (you don't have to but i like to). You shouldn't need to compress anything, but you MAY need a limiter. generally you should be fine though. You may want to cut somewhere around 1-4khz and boost around 5-15khz to get that sizzle. Usually don't have to do a huge deal with Overheads because it should already have most of the sound captured already. I generally just EQ as i said before and set the levels. That's me though.

#6 Now for panning and level setting. Start with the kick drum and then adjust all the levels to that. Then the snare, followed by toms, then the overheads to taste. If something is clipping then try lowering all the levels. Just play around with everything until you get your levels exactly how you want them. Panning wise, i like to pan the drums like I'm sitting behind the kit. Kick in the center, snare slightly to the left, toms arrayed left and right, and the overheads panned hard left and right.

After all this you should have a pretty killer sounding Drum sound.

Ok this post is gonna be pretty big.

Bass


#1 Bass is the same as everything else, if your recorded sound sounds good, the less you have to do the better. Make sure you eq different frequencies than the kick so around 40-100 hz if you use my guide. You may want to eq some 3-5khz to add some punch or some 10khzish to add some more top end and string noise. Once again, if its boomy try cutting some frequencies and see if that helps. Low mids are evil!! :P not always but you'll see what i mean. You then will want to add some compression just to even out the bass, try around 4:1 but depending on the dynamics and style its all very up to you.

#2 Now just adjust the bass to the drums and where you want it to sit in the mix. And Pan dead center.
Last edited by doommaker at Feb 1, 2009,
#2
Guitars

NOTE: In my opinion guitars need to least work because if its been recorded well you shouldn't need to do nearly anything. Go over my past guides to record it well before you decide to try to "fix" it with EQ. Add what you need to and cut what you need to you don't need to do much radical work. (If anyone has anything to add here please tell me and i'll add it)

#1 Make sure your base guitar track needs EQ first, if it was recorded well it shouldn't need anything, it might just need a touch of high end between 5-10khz and less around the bass frequencies because the bass guitar will make up for that, if your guitars sound boomy cut some bass frequencies and just remember, the bass guitar will fill out the bass frequencies.

#2 Lead guitars obviously need a bit less bass and more high frequencies and more mids to cut through the mix.

#3
Adjust the third guitar in the chorus to fill out the sound, use the past EQ advice.

#4 Adjust all the levels to sit in the mix, you may want to pan the lead and or extra guitar somewhere off center to make the mix sound wider, or just keep it all in the middle, its up to you really. You shouldn't need to compress any of the guitars but do so if you need to, use your discretion.

Vocals


#1 These are the same as guitars, the less you have to do to the recorded sound the better, but subtle EQ is good for vocals. Maybe a bit of top end to around 10khz, maybe a very tight cut at around 5khz for sibilance but be careful. Boost around 200hz for adding a bit of bass and cut around 500hz to get rid of a bit of mud if there is any. You will want to add some compression at around 4:1 ratio and 6db gain with a threshold around -15db, add more compression if you need the vocals to cut through the mix more or if the quiet bits are too quiet and the loud bits too loud. Don't forget to increase the gain if you compress it more. You may want to add some reverb and delay to the vocals also. I personally like to add some echo onto the vocal tracks as i personally sounds awesome in the quiet bits because you can really hear it, then in the choruses it really fills out the sound nicely. The reverb gives it a nice roomy feel.
OPTIONAL: This is a cool little thing i like to do sometimes, add some chorus to the vocals in the choruses to make it sound like a bigger vocal line, only very subtle but it can sound pretty cool.
OPTIONAL: If you have a tube distortion plugin, you could add a touch to the vocals to make it sound grainy and a bit more edgy.
OPTIONAL: Another cool thing i sometimes do is make an aux track with lots of delay or reverb (or just a little depending on the song) and set up a noise gate BEFORE the delay/reverb. Send the vocals to that aux track and then set it up so when the singer is belting or singing louder in the choruses, the gate opens and then the delay and reverb kicks in, then when it goes back to the quiet bits its gone. This can also be done with automation.

#2 Use similar EQ for the backing vocals as for the lead though perhaps cut the mids a touch so that they dont take over the lead vocals but whatever works for you is good. You'll also want to compress it about the same, maybe a touch less. Also add some more reverb and delay as to make it sound less present. Don't add too much otherwise it could get a bit overbearing.

#3 Mix the vocals to taste, add the backup vocals in underneath the vocals once again to taste. You may want to pan the backup vocals left and right (if you have two) to make the vocals sound very big.

Finishing up

#1 Take a listen to the entire mix together, adjust any levels that you need to and touch up anything that needs touching up. Make sure that your mix doesn't sound too bassy or trebly, too middy, too muddy, or anything. Make sure everything sits well in the mix and remember, DON'T CROWD FREQUENCIES! Also make sure nothing is clipping. Volume can be fixed in the mastering process (whether you just compress/limit it yourself or you actually get a mastering engineer to do it.)

#2 Remember, this is how I PERSONALLY mix, as with everything I've written, it's not hard fast rules but rather guidelines, tips and suggestions. As always I'm always open to additions anyone wishes to make.

#3 Don't be scared to try different things, add distortion to the drums to make a really trashy garagey type sound. Add delay to the snare to get a close slapback. Use automation (if your daw supports it) to change the levels, FX or EQ mid song.

Here are some suggestions from Axemanchris
Here are a couple of things I do:
-I leave the drum overheads out of the drum bus. The reason for that is I compress the drum bus just to help it all gel together a bit better. Compressing the overheads is usually problematic, particularly because of the cymbals.
-just as it is important to not have things compete for space in frequencies, you can also separate things with similar frequencies (especially guitars) by giving them their own space in the stereo field. (ie panning)
-remember that making each thing sound awesome on its own won't make the whole mix sound awesome. Sometimes, for instance, an otherwise thin sounding rhythm guitar can really appear to fatten up when combined with the bass and the rest of the mix.
-for vocals.... duplicate the track, and move one ahead some value less than 20ms. 12ms is generally a good place to start, but adjust to taste. Pick one of the tracks and pitch shift it up just a couple of cents or so. Pick the other duplicate track and pitch shift it down a couple of cents or so. Pan to taste. I did this on Unsaid and Like This in my profile. Very easy, but very effective, without being obvious or intrusive.
Last edited by doommaker at Jan 21, 2009,
#3
Good article. I'd like to highlight a couple of particularly important things you said, just for emphasis:

-a well recorded track should need little intervention to make it sound good. A good recording job will almost mix itself.
-Cutting frequencies is often more effective than boosting.
-There are no hard and set rules... only ways of working that suit some situations and people better than others.
-don't allow things to compete for the same frequency space.

That said... here are a couple of things I do:
-I leave the drum overheads out of the drum bus. The reason for that is I compress the drum bus just to help it all gel together a bit better. Compressing the overheads is usually problematic, particularly because of the cymbals.
-just as it is important to not have things compete for space in frequencies, you can also separate things with similar frequencies (especially guitars) by giving them their own space in the stereo field. (ie panning)
-remember that making each thing sound awesome on its own won't make the whole mix sound awesome. Sometimes, for instance, an otherwise thin sounding rhythm guitar can really appear to fatten up when combined with the bass and the rest of the mix.
-for vocals.... duplicate the track, and move one ahead some value less than 20ms. 12ms is generally a good place to start, but adjust to taste. Pick one of the tracks and pitch shift it up just a couple of cents or so. Pick the other duplicate track and pitch shift it down a couple of cents or so. Pan to taste. I did this on Unsaid and Like This in my profile. Very easy, but very effective, without being obvious or intrusive.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#5
Of course!

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#8
GREAT thread!!

I never knew that thing about duplicating vocals either, Chris, I always just sang it twice, but it never really sounded right...

So, thanks!
#9
Quote by doommaker
There ARE heaps of sticky's up there... i don't mind, if someone doesn't want to sticky 6 articles, just make 1 with links to all 6.

True.
#10
Singing it twice is a very useful, though very different effect. John Lennon almost always double-tracked his vocals with a second, nearly identical performance. It was 'his sound' and it always sounded great. I don't usually like the effect of a true double-tracking with my voice, but the time and pitch shift effect works quite well.

It really depends on the voice and the application.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.