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Mixing a song vs an album
#3035427 03/28/20 01:25 AM
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J. Dan Offline OP
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While I think we get good results, we are not professionals. By "we" I mean my band and the members most focused on recording and mixdown. Some of us have worked in studios in the past, and one of the main guys currently works for a company that does a lot of big production for corporate as well as major sporting events, as well as commercials, jingles, voiceover, etc....so I guess in a way you could say he is professional but not specifically mixing a cd for a band.

All that said, as we are taking advantage of free time after hours in a professional space using mostly our own gear and doing it ourselves, we tend to record a couple songs at a time, then move on writing the next. While the mixes sound great, by the time all the songs are finally ready to go into a CD, there's always a little rework just to make everything consistent across the CD.

Outside of typical mastering functions, how much is that a "thing" in the world of professional studios and engineers?

Also, I guess given the nature that we do recording and mixdown a couple songs at a time, separated by some pretty long spans of time, any tips for making sure as we go back to the studio that we keep things consistent as we go? Our last CD turned out decent and this one is already heads and shoulders above that, so I feel pretty good about it, but I don't want to have to go back and undo some of what we've done for the sake of consistency.

Last edited by J. Dead; 03/28/20 01:29 AM.

Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3035531 03/28/20 08:44 PM
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Do you use loudness metering in whatever DAW you've chosen? If you mix to a consistent LUFS, it will be very close. I think to make an album that plays linearly, you will always want to take the final tracks, make a new session and play them through, checking all the start/end levels and making sure it flows, but I'm sure you already doing that.

For general consistency, you can also use the same processing chains for each song. That will give a certain cohesiveness. But, that could depend on your philosophy. Some bands intend for the musician to craft the sound to fit the mix vs. the sound being created and tailored during the mix. If everyone is bringing the sound that is needed, then it is only minor surgery to knit the parts together. But this is not how top-40 music is done, what with dozens of subtle tracks, copies of tracks, distortion tracks, compression tracks and more.

Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3035603 03/29/20 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by J. Dead
All that said, as we are taking advantage of free time after hours in a professional space using mostly our own gear and doing it ourselves, we tend to record a couple songs at a time, then move on writing the next. While the mixes sound great, by the time all the songs are finally ready to go into a CD, there's always a little rework just to make everything consistent across the CD.

Outside of typical mastering functions, how much is that a "thing" in the world of professional studios and engineers?
...but it's directly inside typical mastering functions, including the possibility of hiring a (good) mastering engineer. Why not just go there? idea

I guess at the end of the day it comes down to how your content will be digested. If it's one tune at at time, I'm not sure it matters as much....unless you're concerned how they'll sit in a playlist with Other People's Tunes. idk

dB

Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3035778 03/30/20 05:51 PM
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To be clear I'm not just talking overall levels and eq from song to song, which can be worked out in mastering. I'm also talking relative mix of the instruments and cohesive sound - so do the drums sit in a consistent space? Are the vocals out front where they need to be consistently? One challenge is that with so much going on at times, it can be tricky to get one part to cut through without losing others and I wonder in the end if the steps taken to make something work on one song will end up significantly different from what is needed on another song that they will not cohesively fit together as well.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3035793 03/30/20 07:57 PM
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Are the drums presented consistently, or do they have a different treatment on every track? If there's a "sound" that the drums have, whether acoustic or processed, then that can be put into a template. If you get the input level matched up in subsequent sessions, it will be very close to the same sound. The same is true for the bass. I imagine in the genre you are working in that the guitars and keys cover a huge range of timbres and "spectral density".

How consistent are the track counts for the core of the song? Do you always have a certain number of contributions? I'd template those things.

How good is the band at knowing what is core and what is embellishment? I like to think of things as having a role for each section of a song. Is it melody? Countermelody? Arpeggio or driving pattern? Groove/foundation? Lyrics? Pad/texture? Often mix problems are arrangement problems. If two parts are doing the same thing or occupying the same spectrum, are both necessary? Does one work better than the other? Should both instruments play the best part in unison? Often if you have more than 4 "ideas" going, the mind looses ability to concentrate on all of them. You can have more than 4, but they can't all be prominent. The more it is clear exactly what is important, the more everything else must either simplify, or recede to the sides, or the back of the mix. Everything can't be important all the time. In prog, there is constantly shifting canvas, so no one should feel slighted at not carrying the most critical part in every section. It would seem to be music that everyone can take turns in the spotlight. But this is a producer/arranger question much more than a technical "mix the tracks" question. It is a major reason bands use producers. Someone has to make the tough decisions about what is most important and commit to it. Then the mix decisions are more obvious. Else the buck gets passed to the mixer who becomes the producer by using his or her mute button to clean up the arrangement based on their taste.

I do know that when I am programing synths to go on top of very loud guitars, it is shocking how bright the sounds need to be to cut through. But when the guitars clean up, the timbral shifts need to be extreme. The interplay between keys and guitars is critical, and I think the tones have to be tailored to each other for each song to really have it work well. These instruments sit in the same range, often, and it takes discipline to have the guitarist chugging away on low power chords to make room for a synth part, or to have the keys player hold a relatively boring texture so that a lead line just hovers in space like a polished gem. I know you know this. It's still true. I mention it only because in the moment of self-recording, it is very hard to remember this stuff as everyone is so wrapped up in their parts and sound. I suspect another set of ears will do the most possible good. You should pay to have one song mixed - you don't have to like it. It is the discussions that happen afterwards that will help the band make the musical decisions that make mixing easier. I'd commit these decisions into a template that helps you get consistent results. You can get better at "baking the band's sound".

it sounds like a solid mix template is a good foundation for the core elements. This will create a consistent sound. This is both a set of default plugins and bussing in your DAW of choice, as well as a "way of working through the material in a consistent way". When mixing, I first experiment to find the "handles" for each sound - where can I cut without loosing goodness, what can I boost to get more? I may or may not use them, but after cruising the tracks solo, I have a sense for how the parts can fit together. If those handles are already in the template, with the plugins disabled, then I can create a "faders up" rough mix, get the balances roughly right, and then use the handles I've identified on other tracks as a place to start.

After this album, I'd not use the template, or make a new one for whatever comes next. But I do have a default "band" template in my studio that I know will give me a head-start on typical drum/bass/guitar/keys/vocal type of stuff. Plugin chains, bussing, FX are all at the ready, even though none are turned on.

Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3035925 03/31/20 05:31 PM
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Yes I think drums and bass could benefit from using some templates. Guitars and keys can be difficult because there is a lot of variation between things like hormonized dual guitar solos over a keyboard pad vs, wall of guitars under a searing synth solo and everything in between. Even drums though if there ends up being some driving to,s, for instance, can kind of take over mix compared to other tracks that have a bit more sparse rhythms. Then there's the vocals. Again, depending on what's going on musically, sometimes they can start to get buried. So it doesn't seem like a one size fits all template would work.

I think the last CD turned out pretty well, but as challenging as the first 2 tracks of this one have already been, I'm just wondering how the rest will play out when it all comes together.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3036330 04/02/20 05:28 PM
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Now that I have a hybrid workflow that allows for instant recall, I find myself very often going back and doing a couple more laps through all the songs on an album to make sure it flows well and to see if there is anything I learned on one song that might be of value for the others. In your case, unless things are completely out of whack, a good mastering job can tie most albums together .


Ronan Chris Murphy - Producer-Engineer
(King Crimson, GWAR, Ulver, Mafia III)
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Re: Mixing a song vs an album
J. Dan #3040436 04/24/20 09:36 PM
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Recording music is an artform. And what is it that you want to say with your art? Do you want to tell a story - a concept - via an album? Or is your album a place where ten - twelve songs are telling their own stories

For the latter, you don't need a cohesive sound. The Beatles published Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Helter Skelter on one album. It's the people playing the music that brings it all together.

What I used to do when recording an entire album is to treat every song on its own from a story tellers perspective and bring them all together in the mastering room with the same chain of equipment. Adjusting for every song the attack and release times of the compression during mastering - but that's was it.

You and your fellow band members are the cohesiveness. Be the best version of yourself as much as you can during recording and you'll create a beautiful coherent album.


keys My Musicthx I always wondered what happened after the fade out?

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