#1
Just started doing home studio work with Ableton Live 9 Lite. I know nothing about mixing and mastering so I am just going by feel/ear. All I've really figured out at this point is how to use reverb and compression. I know I should be using EQ to make sure each instrument is in it's right place sonically, but I don't even know where to begin. I've adjusted the treble on the drums to make sure the high-hat and ride are at a nice level, and I've gotten some nice results from adjusting the mid range on rhythm guitar tracks. Are there general rules I should be following as a place to start? Should I be using EQ on every track? Are there any general practices that I should be following on all pieces or is it just a matter of trial and error by ear?
#2
Like seasoning your food, often less is more. Unless you are going for a crazy effect, +/- 3db is often enough. I prefer to use reference tracks and match tone and balance to a really well produced pro recording rather than mixing blind. I recommend this for everyone.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
#3
Mixing takes a lot of practice. There's a couple rough "rules" I've figured out/learned:

1) Cutting is almost always better than boosting (think about it: if you take out a frequency, all other frequencies around it will sound relatively louder because you took out a frequency that was there. If you boost, all the frequencies you didn't want are still there)
2) Cut with surgical precision if possible
3) Boost wide
4) Use a steep Q and high gain to find "trouble spots" and take them out. You'll know you've found them when you boost it and it sounds almost grating to the ear, or it's extremely boomy, or really fizzy. It takes a bit of practice, but doing this REALLY helps to round out a mix and help things sit better (especially distorted guitars and bass)
5) High Pass and Low Pass Filters are your friend.
6) Learn where certain instruments tend to sit best and where their power comes from (i.e., the snare tends to have a nice "snap" right around 150Hz and near 2k-3k Hz, that, with a slight boost, sounds really nice)

And, as stated, often less is more. But it all depends on your source sound and what you're going for. I've had upwards of 3 EQ's on a track cause it wouldn't sit well, but I've also only had one HP filter on some because it just sounds best that way.

I tend to cut a lot out of my tracks - almost too much - and boost only a little bit. But it's all trial and error.

Practice my friend

As far as mastering... I've no real idea. I just slap a limiter on the master track and boost to taste But that's why I've decided to go to a professional mastering engineer for that
Last edited by DiminishedFifth at Apr 21, 2015,
#4
That's really helpful. I'm not interested in anything weird, so I think I need to follow the less is more rule. Cutting means pulling down the bass or treble? Boost wide means boost on the master track?
#5
I try to EQ as little as possible since I want it to sound like it did when I recorded it. If an instrument doesn't fit without EQ then I think the arrangement of the song is wrong and will alter this to ensure that every part can be heard.
I high pass filter almost everything to get rid of dark low stuff that tends to be picked up without you noticing. I often use a multi-band compressor instead of EQ to form an active EQ for a part.
#6
Cutting narrow and boosting wide :



Cut = decreasing the gain of frequencies
Boost = increasing the gain of frequencies
Narrow/wide = the bandwidth (the range of frequencies either side of the CENTRAL frequency you are cutting or boosting). Usually referred to as the Q factor.

I used to have a massive poster of this hung up in my college music rooms, and found it pretty useful so have a look to guide you when beginning

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#7
I agree with PSimonR above. What I've learned over many years of recording is that you should always try to get the raw recording as close to what you want as possible. The old adage "fix it in the mix" is crap. If you didn't get the sound you wanted when you recorded it, you will have a hard time trying to get it using EQ. Get what you want to begin with since the sound of the original track relies on more than EQ, it also is effected by room acoustics, dynamics, pitch and other variables that EQ can't fix.
Also use those high pass and low pass filters as much as possible. They will save you some headaches in the final mix.
I learned a lot from a studio test disc (CD) that offered a range of frequency tones (20-20,000 hz.) designed to help identify problem frequencies in your monitors and mixing area. What I learned most importantly by just listening to that disc is that what I perceived as high frequencies were actually much lower and what I perceived as low frequencies were often much higher.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#8
Quote by PSimonR
I try to EQ as little as possible since I want it to sound like it did when I recorded it. If an instrument doesn't fit without EQ then I think the arrangement of the song is wrong and will alter this to ensure that every part can be heard.
I high pass filter almost everything to get rid of dark low stuff that tends to be picked up without you noticing. I often use a multi-band compressor instead of EQ to form an active EQ for a part.


That makes sense, and is a relief frankly, cause I was worried there was all this EQing I should be doing and don't know how to.

I've heard that it's not good to use reverb or delay on your guitar when you record. That it's better to add those effects afterwards. Is that an exception to the "record how you want it to sound" rule?
#9
Think of it this way, if you record an effect on the track (reverb or delay) and it doesn't sound good when all the other tracks are recorded, what can you do? Live with it or re-record the track. If you record without reverb, delay or other effects, you can always add them later during the mix when they will sit properly against other instruments.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Apr 21, 2015,
#10
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Mixing takes a lot of practice. There's a couple rough "rules" I've figured out/learned:

1) Cutting is almost always better than boosting (think about it: if you take out a frequency, all other frequencies around it will sound relatively louder because you took out a frequency that was there. If you boost, all the frequencies you didn't want are still there)
2) Cut with surgical precision if possible
3) Boost wide
4) Use a steep Q and high gain to find "trouble spots" and take them out. You'll know you've found them when you boost it and it sounds almost grating to the ear, or it's extremely boomy, or really fizzy. It takes a bit of practice, but doing this REALLY helps to round out a mix and help things sit better (especially distorted guitars and bass)
5) High Pass and Low Pass Filters are your friend.
6) Learn where certain instruments tend to sit best and where their power comes from (i.e., the snare tends to have a nice "snap" right around 150Hz and near 2k-3k Hz, that, with a slight boost, sounds really nice)

And, as stated, often less is more. But it all depends on your source sound and what you're going for. I've had upwards of 3 EQ's on a track cause it wouldn't sit well, but I've also only had one HP filter on some because it just sounds best that way.

I tend to cut a lot out of my tracks - almost too much - and boost only a little bit. But it's all trial and error.

Practice my friend

As far as mastering... I've no real idea. I just slap a limiter on the master track and boost to taste But that's why I've decided to go to a professional mastering engineer for that


Everything this man said is good. Go by these points and you're set. No further reading the thread really haha
#11
One most important tip from me is strap an eq on the master bus and look through the whole mix if there is a certain quality you don't like. Then cut with broad strokes looking for the freq. that you want to take out, this will help you narrow down which is the offending instrument/s.

For example there was some mud in a mix that I didn't like, it was obscuring the drum impact and the guitar crunch, with broad eq I noticed that it was in the 120-200 range, which ended up being the drum bus, overall rumble from the room mics. This is easier to narrow down than start looking channel by channel.


I'd actually recommend taking in at least a few books of information before going further.
It will help much more in teh long run.

The one I really like is Erwin Hamidovich "The Mixing Guide" which is barebones essentials and cuts to the chase:
http://www.systematicproductions.com/mixing-guide.htm

Second one which is broader and has some insight from other industry professionals is this Bobby Owsinski's "Mixing Engineers Handbook":
http://www.amazon.com/Mixing-Engineers-Handbook-Bobby-Owsinski/dp/128542087X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

If you are a total newb Alan Parson's book:
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Parsons-Science-Sound-RecordingThe/dp/1458443191/ref=pd_sim_mov_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=00Y48N7PV4XYBSWYXH1T

Honestly, there are so many things that we can't really fit them in a forum.

Feel free to post your mixes, we'd be happy to provide feedback.
#12
^ Pssst, it's Ermin Hamidovic He's a nice guy, spoken to him a bit on Facebook in the past not that he'd probably remember with all the people who comment on his posts every day lol.

Saw a good, brief guide to using subtractive EQ earlier - http://www.sonicscoop.com/2015/04/16/back-to-basics-3-simple-steps-to-improve-your-mixes-with-subtractive-eq/
Hey, look. Sigs are back.
#13
The most important thing to always keep in mind: what does it sound like? If it sounds good, why change it? Don't feel like you have to do something just because its conventional.
#14
Quote by chaosmoon
The most important thing to always keep in mind: what does it sound like? If it sounds good, why change it? Don't feel like you have to do something just because its conventional.

This

I've been bedroom producing for years now and I always used to try and use the curves I saw others using in the tutorials, but at the end of the day use those as a guide, but do the final mix with your ears not your eyes. Mixing is an artform which takes years of practise, there's no quick fix template you can apply each time to get perfect results. Play around with VSTs and gear, change settings, learn what they do and what they sound like. Eventually you'll develop "your sound" and learn how to dial in huge mixes
Last edited by AxSilentxLine at Apr 21, 2015,
#15
Quote by diabolical
One most important tip from me is strap an eq on the master bus and look through the whole mix if there is a certain quality you don't like. Then cut with broad strokes looking for the freq. that you want to take out, this will help you narrow down which is the offending instrument/s.

For example there was some mud in a mix that I didn't like, it was obscuring the drum impact and the guitar crunch, with broad eq I noticed that it was in the 120-200 range, which ended up being the drum bus, overall rumble from the room mics. This is easier to narrow down than start looking channel by channel.


I'd actually recommend taking in at least a few books of information before going further.
It will help much more in teh long run.

The one I really like is Erwin Hamidovich "The Mixing Guide" which is barebones essentials and cuts to the chase:
http://www.systematicproductions.com/mixing-guide.htm

Second one which is broader and has some insight from other industry professionals is this Bobby Owsinski's "Mixing Engineers Handbook":
http://www.amazon.com/Mixing-Engineers-Handbook-Bobby-Owsinski/dp/128542087X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

If you are a total newb Alan Parson's book:
http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Parsons-Science-Sound-RecordingThe/dp/1458443191/ref=pd_sim_mov_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=00Y48N7PV4XYBSWYXH1T

Honestly, there are so many things that we can't really fit them in a forum.

Feel free to post your mixes, we'd be happy to provide feedback.


Hey. Thanks. Downloaded the Alan parsons book and started reading last night. I know so little I don't even know what questions to ask, so a beginner's manual is just the thing. Thanks.
#17
After the Parson's book, you can get really surgical with Hamidovich as he puts it all in perspective with precision that a lot of other books tend to take forever to cover, but I recommend him for the intermediate level.

Feel free to ask any questions and don't forget - the best way to do it is to practice, practice and practice

BTW - there's also this other forum where you can get more seasoned pro's to analyze your mixes ("Bash This Recording") once you're ready to put something up:
http://forum.recordingreview.com/

Not to slag on Ableton but it is probably one of the quirkier DAWs. Might want to skip ship early on. Just the way it is setup is not very conducive to professional mixing IMO
As we say on here: "Don't fear the Reaper"
Last edited by diabolical at Apr 22, 2015,
#18
If you're working with hard rock / metal, I would recommend starting with this tutorial and working your way through the rest of those videos (although I guess many of the tips he provides could be applied to many styles of music). That dude's YouTube channel has helped me more than anything else when it comes to mixing, since you can actually see what he's doing step-by-step to get a nice mix. He also has tutorials on getting good guitar tones using plugins and working with programmed drums (he uses Superior Drummer, but most of the tips can be applied to any drum software). And he has a series on mastering which is also helpful. The road of learning to mix is a long one, but its also pretty fun. I hope this helps and best of luck
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#19
Don't be intimidated. It's quick and easy to get a lot of results, but it's the professionals who can squeeze that last bit of diminishing returns out, and that's what separates the best from the rest.

I'd start with my kick drum and bass, deciding which will exist lower on the frequency spectrum, and then carving out space for each other using a parametric EQ. I'd do a high roll off on both too, but keeping in mind which overtones are helping versus hurting in the high end.

You can take everything else and apply a varying level of high-pass filters on them so the bass and kick aren't competing with them too much, and vice versa. That right there will take you a long way past most amateur mixes.

Just start bringing everything up in level one at a time till it all sits right, then you can start making more EQ calls. Don't forget that panning can help as much as destructively altering your audio with more and more EQ!

Good luck.
#20
Lots of good advice here.

I'll add...

1. Don't be afraid to roll stuff off - especially off the bottom. For instance, you might not like the sound of the guitars when you roll off everything below about 100hz or so, but when you put it back in the mix, you'll be pleased at how much better the bass comes through. Rolling off the bottom end of the bass, even, can clean up some of the mud on the bottom of a mix. Look for those kinds of things.

2. Sometimes boosting frequencies other than the fundamental are exactly what you need. For instance, rather than turning up the kick drum, or adding 10db of EQ at 60hz or something, add a little around 2K to bring out just the beater. The listener will hear the beater louder, and will be fooled into thinking he/she is actually hearing more thump out of the kick drum.

3. Sometimes (heh... often) you will want to bring something out more in the mix by turning something else down. Not just instruments but frequencies. For instance, rather than adding 4db of EQ to a vocal at 5k to bring out the vocal, cut the guitars by 2db at the same frequency. By comparison, those frequencies on the vocal will appear more present. "In a room full of giants, nobody is especially tall."

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.
#21
Quote by Playsabadguitar
Just started doing home studio work with Ableton Live 9 Lite. I know nothing about mixing and mastering so I am just going by feel/ear. All I've really figured out at this point is how to use reverb and compression. I know I should be using EQ to make sure each instrument is in it's right place sonically, but I don't even know where to begin. I've adjusted the treble on the drums to make sure the high-hat and ride are at a nice level, and I've gotten some nice results from adjusting the mid range on rhythm guitar tracks. Are there general rules I should be following as a place to start? Should I be using EQ on every track? Are there any general practices that I should be following on all pieces or is it just a matter of trial and error by ear?


The main general rule is to cut rather than boost whenever possible. EQ should be looked at as something you use to fix a problem or to help make a track fit a certain context - it's only to be used when needed. It's very context specific. It's always better to use mic placement to properly EQ when tracking rather than apply EQ plugins after a track was recorded.