#1
I am not a great mixer. In fact I'm pretty terrible at it.

Yesterday I spent ages mixing some drums trying to get my kick just right I spent ages sculpting the EQ and applying the right effects to get it sounding great.

The problem was I was falling subject to volume bias. The old trick that louder often sounds better. EQ wasn't too much of an issue but after applying some plug in effects I would get this great sounding drum. I would use the bypass to A-B the track with the effect and without to see the difference and it sounded much better with the effect on.

I spent a long time working on it trying to get it to sound the way I heard it in my head.

Then when I put it back in the mix it was too loud so I would turn it down to the right level and found that it was actually a whole lot worse than the original. Even when I solo'd the track I found that the kick when played at the right volume sounded worse than the original.

I had made a fundamental mistake in mixing - falling prey to volume bias.

It was frustrating and I felt like a chump. However, it got me thinking about the bypass and how relying on the bypass to determine how an effect affects the instrument is not always reliable because there is quite often a volume discrepancy. Then I came up with a solution. I'm not sure if this is standard practice or if there are reasons that it won't work but thought I would share and get your feedback on my idea.

So I decided that in the future I would use the following approach:

Track A doesn't quite sound right and I want to tweak some settings or apply some effects without being deceived by volume bias.

So I'm thinking I'll send track A to an Aux track with the send at 0db.

Track A will be my dry track and I will apply the effects to the Aux track.

Then as I apply effects and adjust the settings on the Aux track I can use the Aux fader to ensure an equivalent perceived volume the two tracks. I can then use the solo/mute buttons to A-B the two.

In doing so I will be comparing only the differences in sound quality of the effects and not be deceived by any volume gains that the effects contribute.

--So, are there any flaws with this approach? Any reason not to do it like this or anything that I am overlooking? Or have I just figured out something that is already common practice?

---
On a side note there are a lot of books and information out there on mixing. I've been looking around and am considering "The Art of Mixing: Understanding and Crafting the Mix" by William Moylan. Anyone read this book? Is it worthwhile working through it? Or is there any other resources that you would recommend in it's place as a good starting point? It seems to be a very practical book instead of just theory it has a series of listening exercises and "homework".
Si
#2
1) you can solo a track to tweak it somewhat and find problem frequencies, but at the end of the day - EQ decisions and nearly all mixing decisions need to happen in the context of the entire track. What sounds good in solo will not necessarily sound good in the context of your mix, especially with the low end frequencies.

2) your approach is over-complicating things - placing effects on inserts rather than aux tracks is perfectly acceptable. Pull your gain down on the plugin so that you can volume match. In Reaper there is a wet/dry knob for any effect you add ( even third party plugins) and you can quickly audition the impact a plugin is having by bringing it down to zero and back up to 100- this would make your whole aux track approach redundant.

3) Be patient, I've been at this for over 10 years and I'm only now starting to get decent results with EQ - your ears need to get developed and the learning curve is high.
Last edited by reverb66 at Jan 25, 2016,
#3
:P

EQ is hard. I'm definitely not great with EQ but I have learned some things. For some reason I have always been more aware of the volume bias issue with EQ than with plug ins. My EQ philosophy is that it is about shaping the sound and I've always been careful not to boost the overall sound. I realized early on that EQ wasn't a volume boost. So as a rule I keep the mean of my final shape at or below 0. -Hopefully that makes sense.

Also it sounded good in my head!! haha

and to be clear I wasn't proposing that the plug ins live on an aux track forever but would then be applied to the inserts and the aux track removed when you find the right sound.

I think my issue is more a matter of cumulative gains over a series of effects. I think I go a bit overboard sometimes.

but you make some good points.
Si
#4
Quote by 20Tigers
So, are there any flaws with this approach? Any reason not to do it like this or anything that I am overlooking? Or have I just figured out something that is already common practice?
Respectively no, it's a good idea, no, I don't see anything that you're overlooking if I'm getting your description right, and no, what you're doing isn't that common.

A lot of plugins tho have input and output volume controls, so in a lot of cases you can just work with these.
Quote by 20Tigers
It seems to be a very practical book instead of just theory it has a series of listening exercises and "homework".
I haven't read a single book on mixing and I find that theory is something I couldn't live without - it's much better to know why to do something and why it causes an effect instead of knowing that "if my mix sounds too muddy I need to turn down the bass knob on the eq" without knowing what that's actually doing.

If you know theory then you'll also be able to understand stuff like phase distortion, jitter, compression, what's the actual difference between linear phase (so called "mastering") eq's and so on, and that is so much useful.
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