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my mixes are thin and weak


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Hey all,

Curious if anyone can help me out here...

I've been producing for ten years now, used engineers from 94-96, did pre production at home and mixing/mastering at an outsourced studio in 99, and for the last five years have been trying to do it all at home.

Here's the problem, music sounds good on my studio monitors or in the headphones, but when I A/B it against some well produced music, or play it out in the club the songs sound thin and weak.

Here's what I've been using for the recording of material and mixing down:

Korg D16

Cubase

Acid

Wavelab

The source material is various synths, samplers, and now softsynths.

The only thing that gives me a decent result is Acid, it must have some sort of compression built into it that makes finished tracks sound full and punchy.

I've played live straight from the D16 and also played off of CD with a mixed down stereo wav file.

I've tried compressor inserts, but get pumping.

I've tried puncher/exciters, etc, but get clipping when I increase the percieved loudness effect.

Does anyone have any tips that have helped them clear this hurdle? Or good books or articles they can recommend?

I miss the days of sitting with an engineer to make my tracks sound pro, but spending the cash is tough to do these days (and justify since I've invested a lot of time and cash in my gear)....

Many thanks in advance

Dahkter

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I think you're comparing your stuff to "mastered" CDs. That's going to be a major difference right there.

 

One quick suggestion is to spend some time listening to some of that "well produced" music on your studio monitors. Really spend time listening. Then go back to your mixes and compare. You want to get your mixes to sound closer to the "well produced" stuff. You want to avoid making your stuff sound "good" on your monitors without some kind of baseline.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Michael Oster

F7 Sound and Vision

ReGurgiTron - nothing can stop him.

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Sounds like you need to have your stuff professionally mastered.

 

No matter what your own skill or experience is, there's nothing like another set of ears...

 

I can highly recommend Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters

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K7, Alan,

Thanks for the quick replies:

 

K7 - it's interesting, in the past I compared it to mastered cd's and vinyls, last night I compared an MP3 on the net with an MP3 i created, and bit rates/encoding aside, their mixes felt like oak or mahogany, mine sounded like thin paper. When I do the A/B thing, I'm finding out that the sonics are their, but the force/loudness isn't.... very odd and frustrating....

 

Alan - checked out that website, looks real pro and real good, definitely a plan B to send it out and get it done professionally, but if I can get something closer to my desired end result before sending it to someone, that would be great...

 

Thanks

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One word: Mastering.

Three words: EQ, Loudness Maximizer.

 

These days most of my mastering is done with the HarBal equalizer and the Waves L1 maximizer, with a little bit of shelving EQ. EQ is the real key to making masters sound good, and unlike maximizers, there's no "magic button" to make it right. You have to know which frequencies need attention.

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Another thought.

 

Sometimes stuff can just get too digital. Particularly if the digital equipment is not terribly high quality. It's like, if everything's a digital this or a digital that, going through digital processing this, digital plug-in that, it can sound more like icing than cake.

 

To get the mahogony sounds you crave, and I know what you mean, you may need to either use some down and dirty analog gear or step up to a higher caliber of digital kit.

 

Regards,

 

The Lurker

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Thanks for the input:

 

-Craig, thanks for the tips on the tools that are helping you with your mastering, it's interesting to hear you mention that EQing is key, this is definitely something I could do to juice up my tracks

 

-Lurker, you are right on about the coldness of digital, I know people have talked about certain software having a cold thin sound (especially pre-mastering), I'm a big subscriber to this theory. Definitely good to add some old school analog sounds in the mix, huge difference.

 

-Stranger - true, could just load everything into Acid, but would like to avoid it -much more comfortable with using Cubase to do my arranging...you are right though, it definitely has a mojo to it, I may do some testing with tossing stereo audio mixdowns in there and seeing what I come up with...

 

Thanks guys

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First I sugest you take it one step at a time.

 

did you previous work sounded good after it was mixed and mastered by other people - then you know its not the fault of your gear, your recording technic or your production skill..

 

Start by trying to mix it yourself, and let someone else master it. Does it work now? well isn't that a good start. So someone else master your track , whats the problem - it is always a good idea to let someone else master your traks, even if you are the best mastering guy in the world , it simply add another subjective ear to the process.

Still not good, maybe you're not up to the mixing job. it could be the tools, the room or even you. Mixing is art as much as producing is or writing songs. As a producer / engineer / mixer I know I can't write songs. I wish I could, but I can't. No big deal really - I might play around in my free time even slowly slowly teach myself. But in the end of the say I think it is better if I do what I'm good in and like to do.

 

Just my couple of cents. :D

 

Good luck

Rotshtein Danny - Studio Engineer

Jingles show-reel

 

Visit DarlingNikkie.com To discover the sounds of "Darling Nikkie"(aka Jade 4U). . . .

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Hey Mr. Darlin

Yeah man, bravo, this modern day do everything yourself stuff can be a bit much sometimes, I'm definitely happy with some of my past works (note I say some), that were mixed by other people, engineered by other people and mastered by other people.

Good call on the logic of finding the weak link, dealing with it and moving on...

Easy

 

Tele Carlos - I hear you can make a lucrative living as a jockey or hollywood extra, good luck bro

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dahkter,

 

I'll be glad to throw-up one of your wavefiles on my puter and listen on my reference monitors and offer my impressions/observations/suggestions/course of action if you'd like. Great suggestions so far here. :) Let me know. ---Lee

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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Originally posted by dahkter:

Hi Lee,

That is super super sweet, thanks for the kindness, give me five minutes to grab a track from my d16 (one that sounded weak in the club) and I'll get it over to you.

Either that or post a link to it on this thread. I am sure the boys would have a go at it as well! All the best! ---Lee

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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Shit, your from Brooklyn??? Fuhgetaboutit, pal. I'm from Forest Hills, Queens originally. LOL :freak:

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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Dahkter,

 

I guess I'll throw my two cents in. What your stating is a common problem that many studio buffs have. A lot of us started out in the old days of the analog 2 inch tape and had to make the transition to digital. And this is where I believe the problem lies.

 

Analog even after it hits tape responds beautifully to almost all types of modulation and alterations such as EQ, compression, etc... you name it. The plain and simple fact is digital is far less forgiving, and if you really dont get close to the sound you want prior to hitting the harddrive you may not get it.

 

I take a totally different approach to recording digital than I do with analog. I find myself doing much more of the coloring during the tracking process and more blending during the mix.

 

This means every thing, and I mean everything, goes through an analog mic pre. If its a sample or a softsynth it gets converted to analog hits a quality mic pre, for depth and coloring, and then gets converted back to digital. I also do a lot of light compression, gating, and very light EQ while I'm tracking digitally. Many argue against this, but for me it makes a world of difference.

I've just learned over time get the sound you want before it hits the A/D converter.

 

Last but not least do more suntractive EQ during you mixdown process, work very hard to carve out space sonically for your individual instruments, if it doesn't need the low freqs, get rid of them. Same on the high end. Just give this method a try and see what your results are like.

 

It not gonna sound like a mastered project, but you can go a long way towards making the mastering engineers job a lot easier.

http://TrilogySound.com

 

Reading, PA

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Dallas

Definitely true on the subtractive EQ - I haven't done this at all on most/all of my tracks, giving each track a dedicated frequency range is a great call to keep it from sounding muddy..

And getting the analog in the mix somewhere is definitely a good call, but eventually it ends up in digital when you need to burn a cd, so curious if this would void out the analog pre's in the chain...

Thanks for the info

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Studio monitors & headphones are all well and good. But as you've noticed, people don't listen to those in the real world! They listen to home stereos or car stereos or club PA systems.

 

My point? Yep, you guessed it: Add other sets of speakers and other listening environments to your mixing/mastering process! Got good sound in the monitors? Cool... now switch to the "car stereo" and see what it sounds like. Then switch to the "home stereo". Make adjustments along the way. Then bring it back to the monitors or cans and see if you still have the detail you want. If you're doing dance tracks, by all means add a set of PA speakers to your rig.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Greetings,

 

It funny that you would question the use of mic pres, when this is probably numero uno for me. The mic pre tends to open up the sonic brillance of any instrument in addition to adding warmth. I hear a more honest representation of the instrument digitally when using a good mic pre. IMHO when I am tracking, not running a track thru a mic pre is not an option even though the final product is going to CD.

 

I think you will see a noticable difference in your mixes just by tracking through a good mic pre/signal chain.

 

Dallas

http://TrilogySound.com

 

Reading, PA

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Hey Dallas,

Definitely follow the logic, if using a hardware synth, go through a board with good mic pres when tracking. But on a softsynth - you would take the analog outs of your computer, run it through a mic-pre and track it onto a digital medium (DAT/Hard disk, etc.)?

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Yes,

 

But not necessarily a board, more like a good mid to high level outboard mic pre, and if you have them compression & EQ.

 

If your on a budget get a presonus MP20($300-$400 on ebay), swape out the op amps and transformer and use this to track your stuff.

 

I use DP and pro tools, and I know it sounds strange: but if you are using mostly or all softsynths I would generate audio stems of the softsynths; bring them through a mic pre; then back into Cubase via your your frontend A/D converter. You might need to nudge these new audio tracks to compensate for any delays, but most times I find the difference quite pronounced. Granted you should have a good mic pre and A/D converter if your going to make it worth your while. If your just using a couple of softsynths I wouldn't bother.

 

Dallas

http://TrilogySound.com

 

Reading, PA

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Dear Dahkter Homer,

I reviewed "Lushgroove", and my first impression was that there was no spacial imaging on the soundstage as presented with the exception of that funky vocal thang' going on there. Way too much going on in the mid-lows making my boots get stuck in the "mud". In addition, the highs are lost in there, and the bass is relatively OK, but lacks definition. Also those clicky loops can kill a man after a day's work. ;) I spent 10 minutes on a small segment of LUSH and played around with my audio editor. EQ, subtle multiband compression, bit-o-verb on the mids and highs, some spacial widening, little hard limiting, and I dig the sound in comparison. I'll be glad to send you my effort if you would like and let me know whatcha' think. ----L.T.

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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Originally posted by Anderton:

This probably goes without saying, but the best piece of gear for mastering is a professional mastering engineer :)

It DOES go without saying, but I am glad you DID say it, Craig. :D May I add, it usually ain't the gear, it's the EAR. (Don't tell Guitar Center I said that, will ya'??? :eek: ) ---Lee

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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Hey Lee, Craig, all,

Thanks a lot for taking it this far, started looking for some pointers, gald to see it going way beyond my expectations...

And yeah, the mud is a big problem of mine, I've been enjoying that rhodesey muddy warm frequency for years, it does tend to drown everything like the LaBrea tar pits when it's not shelf eq'd on the low end....

Lee - I just PM'd you, really psyched to check the before and after, and yeah, those clicks in there are some sloppy edits, wanted to quickly throw up some sonic material that reflected the pallet I'm working with...and besides the crap edits, there was basically no panning, compression, eqing, etc....

Thanks Again

El Doctore

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Physician!!! Heal thy effing self! You know what to do. Just don't put it through a "do it all" maximizer doo-hicky. Learn to "hear" before you "sear". Check yo' mail, doc. All the best. Snap, crackle, and pop!!! All the best. ---Lee

 

http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:ug_LcU1dCLsJ:www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/cartoons/shirts/bugs.gif

Joe Pine (60's talk show host who sported a wooden leg) to Frank Zappa -- "So, with your long hair, I guess that makes you a woman." Frank Zappa's response -- "So, with your wooden leg, I guess that makes you a table."

 

 

http://www.nowhereradio.com/artists/album.php?aid=2001&alid=-1

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