Why does my mix sound weak?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Stinkidog, Mar 24, 2016.

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  1. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    Hello :hbang:

    After years of fiddling around with recording and just playing around, I'm trying my hand at recording a small demo kinda thing.

    However I often find my mixes sound weak, as in lacking punch and fullness. I mainly use PODFARM and EZMIX 2 for my tones, and Superior drummer - drumkit from hell for my drums.

    I can't help but feel I'm missing something. I'm just wondering what you guys do to get your tones?
     
  2. AngstRiddenDreams

    AngstRiddenDreams Filthy Casual

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    Practice compression forever.
     
  3. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I find DFH sounds pretty weak without putting a ton of effort in to beef it up.

    Otherwise, as has been said, compression is your friend.
     
  4. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    Parallel compression, tape saturation, and trust your ears above anything else. I've found that it's a night and day difference in my drums using Slate's Virtual Tape Machine.
     
  5. Descent

    Descent SS.org Regular

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    This. I usually layer kick and snare from the classic rock kit over it or trigger other samples from another drum software like Battery.
     
  6. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the replies, compression is definitely something I need to work on.
    I was thinking that DFH wasn't quite cutting it, but I don't have too many alternatives. I'll try some of these suggestions. Anyone tried any of the other expansions and had much luck?
     
  7. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    Metal Machine EZX is my favorite non-Superior library. The drums are much better than DHF, and even better than Metal Foundry IMHO.
     
  8. pkgitar

    pkgitar SS.org Regular

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    Post an example
     
  9. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    This is the most recent thing I recorded:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohH-b6LWfU0

    Although what I'm starting to look at now is actually something that fits into the progressive metal genre, which I don't have any example of. I love the sounds that Sithu Aye produces if you're familiar
     
  10. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    As another fan of IA, I really dig your writing and playing there. Killer work! I've always wanted to do the Freak Guitar Camp. I've subscribed to your channel, and I hope to hear more of your freaky music in the future.

    From a mix standpoint, I think those rhythm guitars are going to be your biggest challenge. I bet IA will have some great tips for you about getting monstrous rhythm tones to come across right in a mix. It sounds like he generally has a lot of gain and a lot of low-end in his guitar tone, which can make it difficult to manage the low end and fit the guitars with the bass guitar. His advice would be much more seasoned and tested than my own, but this is just what I've found in my own experience.

    I've found that when it comes to rhythm guitars, less is more. Too much distortion up front strips out the dynamics of the guitar, and then when you try to get it louder in the mix the harmonics are overwhelming and it doesn't sit right. I'd dial the gain back a little bit on the rhythm parts, run them through some very gentle optical compression (like an LA3 modeler or something) to tame those harmonics a little bit, and add a parallel compression subgroup that's fed by both the guitars and the bass. I find that having both of them feeding the compressor helps maintain a good cohesion between the two.

    I'd also maybe add some grit to the bass. Adding a little bit of distortion, especially in the midrange, can really add meat and character to your tracks. I find that subtracting a little bit around 330Hz and adding a little between 700-800Hz tends to help.

    Also, and this is entirely unsolicited nit-picking so feel free to tell me to shove it, it feels like you're trying to get the drums to pop by having the velocity cranked. Sometimes those hits at 127 sound great, but you'll get a more realistic end result if you program in a bit more variation and use a compressed sub-group to make up the extra impact in the mix.

    That's just my $0.02 anyway. To be honest, the Slave Digital plugins have become indispensable to my mixing. Their Virtual Tape Machine blows me away, as does Revival in the Virtual Mix Rack. The amount of body, punch, and clarity these tools add to my mix is just stupid. I highly recommend their subscription bundle.
     
  11. necropsy

    necropsy SS.org Regular

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    have any phasing issues?

    i just found some in mine and fixed it it was like pulling a blanket off the speakers -

    double check for phasing
     
  12. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    Thank you for the in depth reply! This is all very useful. I'm finding the recording process an art in itself, and it's kind of hard with an overwhelming amount of information on the internet. (I don't know if I'll get the chance to show IA, but I'd properly *FREAK* if I did)

    I am guilty of those high velocity hits on the drums. I've actually taken yours and others general advice and looking at what alternatives I have for the drum kit from hell expansion. I'm sure they have a purpose, but it's worth a shot elsewhere.

    I'll have a play with pulling the rhythm back a little, as well as added distorted bass. Both things I've never really delved into. Have you got any of your material around to take a listen to?
     
  13. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    It's DEFINITELY an art form and there's a million ways to get great results, so don't take anything I've said as gospel. Your mileage may vary.

    Part of what makes distorted rhythm guitars so tricky is that the vibe changes depending on how loud it is. The quieter the amp, the more distortion you can use and it still sounds good. The louder the amp gets, the more you're getting compression and saturation from the power section, so the less preamp gain you need (generally speaking). That's why most guitar players don't hesitate to crank the gain on a little practice amp, but on a half stack the setting is a bit more conservative.

    But when you're recording (and particularly when tracking), you're not listening to playback at full amp volume. It doesn't quite feel the same, so the instinct is to crank the gain. Either that, or you're recording with the same preset/settings that you use for bedroom practice. Those settings may work on their own, but what sounds good solo'ed doesn't always fit well in a mix (the opposite is also true: sometimes something that's perfect in a mix sounds awful on its own). Going through the compression that takes place during mixing and mastering, it's going to saturate that signal more and it can become too much. Anyway, I'm rambling at this point.

    Even with the DFH, you can still get great results. Those samples tend to be a little thin/top-heavy, so they've kinda got their own sound, but totally usable. If you're looking to make the drums more lifelike, I posted some tips in an older thread that you might find helpful: Drum Mixing Problems

    That sort of thing isn't terribly important when you're just banging out scratch demos, but if you're looking to put out a release it's worth the effort (IMO).

    Here are some ideas that I recorded last year as I was testing out some new plugins. This is the Metal Machine EZX, 1 guitar track and 1 bass track recorded direct through an Axe-FX II. The drums are using Slate's Virtual Tape Machine and a little extra Compression+EQ. There's also a lot of the "fullness" of this mix coming from mastering plugins (Waves L3 series is to die for IMO).

    [SC]https://soundcloud.com/russell-muller/sets/straw-man-complex-new-demos[/SC]
     
  14. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    No please! Don't stop with the rambling. It's great to hear and learn and I appreciate your knowledge with sounds far superior to mine at this moment in time. Honestly at the moment I'm twiddling knobs a little aimlessly and doing my best to use a rather untrained ear. Best put, it's all a little all over the place and a lot of guess work.

    I will definitely check out your drum mixing thread and recordings when I get home (can't right now, work...). Oh man I'm jealous that you have that Axe-Fx II. I really want one, but I feel I almost need to earn it. I want to actually understand how to use one and get the basics down first.
     
  15. russmuller

    russmuller Cramblin' Contributor

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    I'll be honest- sometimes twiddling knobs aimlessly is the best way to learn. I took some Digital Audio Workstation classes at the local community college when I was first getting into making my own demos, and some of the mixes I did then (when I couldn't hear compression and guitar amps were my only experience with EQ) actually sound better than stuff I was making 5 years later after going to a trade school for audio engineering. While it was really great to learn about all the ins and outs of recording, and the gear, and how it all worked, I was mixing more with my brain than my ears. There's a saying that goes something like "When you learn to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail." lol

    I had an Axe-FX II, then I sold it to help finance a guitar building class (with Sully from Sully Guitars). It's a GREAT sounding tool, but I only ever really used 4 or 5 sounds out of it. Going into the advanced editing options with Axe-Edit, I found myself aimlessly twiddling knobs (and often not detecting any real change since some of the parameters are extremely subtle in their effects).
     
  16. Crescendo

    Crescendo 크레센도

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    Axe-Fx doesn't make your mixes great. Learn to mix first and then look at (affordable) interfaces. Seriously dude, save the money. It's been discussed a thousand times already but if you're absolutely sure that you need the unit in the studio AND live, then you can consider buying it.
     
  17. Stinkidog

    Stinkidog SS.org Regular

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    Yeah I'm aware that it isn't the answer and it's just a tool (a very expensive tool). I only stated I was jealous, I don't think I could ever quite justify it for the price, although I'd happily have one in my set-up! Fully aware about learning how to mix first
     
  18. KingAenarion

    KingAenarion Resident Studio Nerd

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    Get yourself a copy of and read the Systematic Mixing guide cover to cover, taking notes of the things you feel most important. Use his techniques as a grounding in what are good practices for getting huge mixes and build on your own ears and aesthetic considerations.
     
  19. ConnorGilks

    ConnorGilks Still can't play.

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    Listened to your example, here's what I've come up with:

    Guitars have too much high end, volume, and gain, they're really fizzy sounding and nasally, they have no midrange body whatsoever. Bass is almost non-existent too, and that contributes a huge part of the thickness in your guitars, and the glue in your entire mix. Split the bass lows and highs onto two different tracks and distort the high end a bit to help it blend with the guitars and have some more presence in the midrange. Lots of tutorials online that will show you how to do this.

    The kick drum and snare lack any sort of real body to them, they sound like they were just thrown in there without much processing? To get the snare to be more in your face, try adding a SLIGHT low end boost, start at 200Hz and boost a few db, sweep around until you find a place where it fattens up the snare nicely, I also think it could use a bit more high end to be more present in the mix and cut through. The kick could get some low mids taken out (250-500Hz area) and a bit more boost in the low end (50-70Hz area, I usually use 60 as a starting point). I find clipping (not to be confused with the type of clipping you get when your signal is too loud) the kick to be very helpful as well. GClip (free), T-Tracks Clipper, etc. can all do this. Sometimes I'll throw on MaxxBass to give it some more midrange and "thud" that you feel in your chest.

    I'd also look at your drum room mics, it'll help make the whole kit sound more cohesive, like it's in a real space, rather than individual instruments. Try smashing it to bits with compression or limiting (1176 clones are rad for this, L1 is good too), EQing out the harsh, muddy, boxy stuff (try 1kHz, 500-700, maybe 250Hz as starting points) and if necessary you can low pass and high pass it so it's essentially just distorted midrange. If you don't use a HPF and LPF on your room mics it can sometimes make the cymbals too harsh, ringy, and washy, and the kick drum too loose and wimpy.

    All just random thoughts while listening to your mix
     

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