Alt-Rock Mix Test

zenshin

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Hey folks, just been spending some time mixing down a track and decided it was time to get some outside opinions on the mix and what it may or may not be needing. The song itself is a sort of alt-rock ballad type of track. Almost a Staind meets Incubus type of deal. A little different from what I normally do but still, worth trying out. Anyways, enough ranting, looking forward to hearing some critiques on how to make this better.

https://soundcloud.com/zenshin-2/see-through
 

schwiz

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Nice mix! I think you got the overall balance of the track right (your guitars aren't overpowering your drums). IMO you could benefit from taking away some of the reverb on the kick which is causing it to be extra clickly, and adding some room and hall verb to the snare. The snare is a bit dry right now. Once you add in the verb, you may realize that you need to bring down the fader a bit. @0:19 & 1:56 you're clipping something - I think it's the toms. I do hear the sub bass, but I'd like to hear more of it along with some grit. Are you splitting your bass tracks at all? What I've been doing lately is splitting the tracks, processing them separetly (comp, eq, saturation on the grit track), routing them to a buss, then finally what I'll do is throw a limiter on the bass sub track post fader, and a limiter on the bass grit track pre fader and adjust to taste. What this allows you to do is use the buss to dial in the sub to the kick, then use the fader on the grit track to dial in the grit/grind. In this context I don't think you need a super grindy bass, but a little something in the mids and upper mids will really help beefen up your guitars. Hope that helps. Cheers!
 

billinder33

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Great sounding track. I agree with lefty that the snare is a tad dry.

Love the effects on the guitar. Would like to know what amp/sims were used.

I also think bass sounds great.. would like to know more about how you did recorded/mixed it.
 

zenshin

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Nice mix! I think you got the overall balance of the track right (your guitars aren't overpowering your drums). IMO you could benefit from taking away some of the reverb on the kick which is causing it to be extra clickly, and adding some room and hall verb to the snare. The snare is a bit dry right now. Once you add in the verb, you may realize that you need to bring down the fader a bit. @0:19 & 1:56 you're clipping something - I think it's the toms. I do hear the sub bass, but I'd like to hear more of it along with some grit. Are you splitting your bass tracks at all? What I've been doing lately is splitting the tracks, processing them separetly (comp, eq, saturation on the grit track), routing them to a buss, then finally what I'll do is throw a limiter on the bass sub track post fader, and a limiter on the bass grit track pre fader and adjust to taste. What this allows you to do is use the buss to dial in the sub to the kick, then use the fader on the grit track to dial in the grit/grind. In this context I don't think you need a super grindy bass, but a little something in the mids and upper mids will really help beefen up your guitars. Hope that helps. Cheers!

First, thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful reply! There is a lot I want to address so I will take it step by step.

1. Kick/Snare Reverb
I hadn't thought about the reverb contributing to the clickiness of the kick drum. I'll check into that. Admittedly, before this, I always had a problem with my drums not being clicky enough so I likely got a little over eager. Well, that and when I was mixing the kick tone I was A/B testing to Slipknot's Iowa album for the drum tones. Likely not a smart move since I was really going for such a drastically different sound in the big picture but eh, live and learn. I'll be curious to see what happens when I shift that reverb from the kick over to the snare. We'll see what happens here :).

2. Clipping Issue
Yeah I think you're right about the toms triggering the clipping. I always have a hard time with them on other tracks too. Don't get me wrong, I like my overall tom sound, I'm just having a hard time figuring out what I need to be doing to keep the sound in place but not have it trigger the clipping. If you would like, I could screenshot my current mix settings for toms in case you spot something that could be dialed in. I don't have any voodoo going on there, just EQ/Compression/Reverb.

3. Bass
You'll be happy to know that I am splitting the bass tracks between sub and higher frequencies. Unfortunately though, in this case, I know the specific frequency area you're talking about, that's where I'm having a specific problem with my actual bass guitar. It's a crappy Squire and even with new strings, there is an awful hum around the 100-180 kHz range that I've had to eliminate entirely. I can't blame plugins because even on raw DI, you hear it very clearly. That said, maybe I can do a little bit of surgery on it to see how much of that frequency range I can bring back without introducing the hum. As for your limiter suggestion, I love this idea. I absolutely want to give this a try. Brilliant suggestion, especially for working with the sub bass and making it more solid. I'll keep you posted on how this experiment goes. Btw, do you sidechain the sub bass limiter to respond to the kick drum? I've tried things like that in the past with little success so I abandoned the technique for now but I'd be happy to learn your suggestions on this topic.
 

zenshin

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Great sounding track. I agree with lefty that the snare is a tad dry.

Love the effects on the guitar. Would like to know what amp/sims were used.

I also think bass sounds great.. would like to know more about how you did recorded/mixed it.

Hey I appreciate your backing up what schwiz was saying, lets me know what areas to prioritize the most in making mix corrections. Also the kind words in general are great to read :).

To answer your question, I'll breakdown what I'm doing on guitar and bass one at a time.

Guitar
Signal chain: Cort M800 guitar -> NI Kontrol Rig Interface -> Logic Pro X -> Monitors
Plugins: Mercuriall Spark, stock Logic Compression, Fabfilter Pro Q2 (EQ), Delay Designer for lead lines

Beyond the guitar itself, the core of the tone and effects is just Spark. That's it. Even the post-EQ is minor. Just high pass filter and some minute low-pass that may have been unnecessary. That's all really.

To be honest though, I wouldn't take any changes on the guitar side too seriously at this point only because I'm thinking about pulling the trigger on a Mesa Mark V in the near future. If I do get that, I'll be re-tracking everything on the guitar side anyway.

Bass
Signal chain: Squire POS -> NI Kontrol Rig -> Logic Pro X -> Monitors
Plugins for sub bass: Fabfilter Saturn, Fabfilter Pro Q2, stock Logic compression
Plugins for clean higher bass freqs: Mercuriall Spark, Fabfilter Pro Q2, stock Logic compression

Fabfilter's Saturn plugin is the most important element in that chain for me in the sub bass. It adds the harmonics that give it the power I'm looking for. No amp sims were necessary there. Spark's Bass 67 does provide some serious boom of its own, but what I was getting out of Saturn was a little more controllable, especially for my case since I don't have a reliable way of monitoring sub bass right now. The clean high freqs I'm getting out of Spark is alright, I'd re-amp that though in a heartbeat but it will do for now.
 

zenshin

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Back again, here is a new mix where I'm trying my first pass at implementing Schwiz's suggestions. Haven't tested on any mediums beyond my earbuds so I can't guarantee anything, especially with the sub bass but we'll see what happens.

https://soundcloud.com/zenshin-2/see-through-2/s-NoksH

Changes
1. Applied limiter to sub bass, adjusted the hi pass filter to only let through frequencies below 80. Readjusted the clean bass track (the one with Spark applied to it) to now reach out to the 80 mark and remove the sub frequencies.

2. Applied noise gate to tom and kick drums. Readjusted the compression on the toms.

3. Applied reverb to snare then turned the volume down on the fader.

4. Reduced kick drum click via the EQ. Removing the reverb didn't seem to make much of a difference but I found where I had indeed gone a little nuts on the click portion of the EQ spectrum so I dialed it back.

5. Boosted the lows on the distorted guitars. Also turned them up a little bit to give them a little more presence in the mix.
 
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schwiz

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First, thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful reply! There is a lot I want to address so I will take it step by step.

1. Kick/Snare Reverb
I hadn't thought about the reverb contributing to the clickiness of the kick drum. I'll check into that. Admittedly, before this, I always had a problem with my drums not being clicky enough so I likely got a little over eager. Well, that and when I was mixing the kick tone I was A/B testing to Slipknot's Iowa album for the drum tones. Likely not a smart move since I was really going for such a drastically different sound in the big picture but eh, live and learn. I'll be curious to see what happens when I shift that reverb from the kick over to the snare. We'll see what happens here :).

2. Clipping Issue
Yeah I think you're right about the toms triggering the clipping. I always have a hard time with them on other tracks too. Don't get me wrong, I like my overall tom sound, I'm just having a hard time figuring out what I need to be doing to keep the sound in place but not have it trigger the clipping. If you would like, I could screenshot my current mix settings for toms in case you spot something that could be dialed in. I don't have any voodoo going on there, just EQ/Compression/Reverb.

3. Bass
You'll be happy to know that I am splitting the bass tracks between sub and higher frequencies. Unfortunately though, in this case, I know the specific frequency area you're talking about, that's where I'm having a specific problem with my actual bass guitar. It's a crappy Squire and even with new strings, there is an awful hum around the 100-180 kHz range that I've had to eliminate entirely. I can't blame plugins because even on raw DI, you hear it very clearly. That said, maybe I can do a little bit of surgery on it to see how much of that frequency range I can bring back without introducing the hum. As for your limiter suggestion, I love this idea. I absolutely want to give this a try. Brilliant suggestion, especially for working with the sub bass and making it more solid. I'll keep you posted on how this experiment goes. Btw, do you sidechain the sub bass limiter to respond to the kick drum? I've tried things like that in the past with little success so I abandoned the technique for now but I'd be happy to learn your suggestions on this topic.

1. Listening to your updated link, the drums sound a ton better. I'm really diggin the kick drum. It's punchy, but not overly clickly. I think the EQ changes you made definitely helped. I think the snare could still use more verb though. Try creating an FX send with a verb that has a really long tail on it with the mix knob at 100%, then send the snare bus to that and adjust the send amount until the reverb sounds like its tucked just under the dry sample.

2. Gain staging. A trick (not even sure if its really a trick) I learned is that I will route my snare bus, kick bus, and tom bus to a KST bus that has a little compression for glue, but also has an instance of JST clip. I usually decrease the signal coming into the KST bus by -6db as the signal can be coming in too hot. From there I'll use the makeup gain on the compressor, and JST clip to adjust the volume output. The reason I do this is so that I can clip the shells and get more perceived volume out of them without increasing the volume of the overheads and cymbals. It helps me get the balance of the shells/overheads/rooms right. Understanding how to gain stage your tracks is super important and something to understand is that just because your meter goes above 0 on your track doesn't mean that anything above 0 is getting cut off, UNLESS its on your stereo out track. So for example, if my kick bus is peaking at +2db it's ok and not clipping the signal (anything +6 or more will). Knowing my kick signal is hot, I will then lower the input gain on the KST bus. Hope that makes sense.

3. Just curious, but why did you high pass everything above 80hz (from your most recent post)? If your kick is sitting around the 80hz mark, you could be introducing some phasing issues by high passing your bass in that area too. Typically I'll keep the sub bass from 30hz-200hz and carve out some space where the kick is coming through (~80hz). You are challenged with having a crappy bass though. My resolution to this is to program the bass. It sucks, but it will beefen up your low end and is easier IMO to get the kick to gel with it. There are a bunch of stock instruments in Cubase for bass that I use, but I will also use JST Sub Destroyer to get some extra low end if I have the MIDI. Lately I haven't been side-chaining my bass and kick but it depends on what I'm working on.

Something else that I'll note is that you can get some extra punch out of the drums by parallel compressing the drum bus. I create an FX track, insert a compressor with fast attack and release, then send the drum bus to it and adjust the signal until I get the punch I want. Just another thing to try. For parallel compression, I've read that you want a fast attack and release to get the punch, which is counter intuitive to how one would maybe normally process a kick and snare compression wise (slow attack, fast release). However, there are no perfect settings and each song is different.

Anyways, that was really long, but I like talking about this stuff. The above is merely my opinion so take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm just expressing what has worked well for me.
 
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zenshin

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3. Just curious, but why did you high pass everything above 80hz (from your most recent post)? If your kick is sitting around the 80hz mark, you could be introducing some phasing issues by high passing your bass in that area too. Typically I'll keep the sub bass from 30hz-200hz and carve out some space where the kick is coming through (~80hz). You are challenged with having a crappy bass though. My resolution to this is to program the bass. It sucks, but it will beefen up your low end and is easier IMO to get the kick to gel with it. There are a bunch of stock instruments in Cubase for bass that I use, but I will also use JST Sub Destroyer to get some extra low end if I have the MIDI. Lately I haven't been side-chaining my bass and kick but it depends on what I'm working on.

That would be because I'm officially an idiot who doesn't know how to type :lol:. I meant to say that I low passed on the sub to 80. So basically Fabfilter's Saturn owns all the sub frequencies while Mercuriall Spark's Bass 67 owns anything above 80 since it seems to do great in those domains.

Also, interesting that you mention the bass programming because I have thought of a cheat way of doing that. I've been seriously considering getting a Roland GK pickup for bass and attaching it to the Squire, then finding a good bass plugin like you're talking about to handle this. I still may do it but for now, I'll likely keep working with the sound I'm getting now. Especially after learning the limiter technique you were showing me. Admittedly, I'm playing my bass tone a little conservative until I can get in front of some monitors again. Currently recovering from an eye injury from jiu-jitsu, a fractured left hand (thankfully can still play guitar), and the flu to top it all off. So anything I'm doing at this point is from earbuds on a couch hahaha. Well, that and NASCAR is in town so all of my good gear has been moved into storage until the race fans leave. My house gets broken into after every race without fail. Once all those things are over, I'll feel a little more safe to start getting more aggressive with my low end :).

On some other points, I'll give your reverb snare tip a try and see what happens. I'm definitely loving the current results so if I end up not feeling the long reverb tail, it's all good because I can certainly live with what I now have.

Also, if anything I will also try that one suggestion about carving out some space in the 80 Hz range on the bass to make some room for the kick. May not feel as necessary on this track but I tend to save what I feel are "good mixes" as templates for other recording sessions. Would likely be beneficial to a much heavier song.

And no worries on the post being long! I know the feeling on liking to talk this subject over, but not having many people to talk it with. Irony is I hear all this stuff about Birmingham having this growing music scene... but trying to find and get into networking with all those musicians has proven to quite challenging. As for the rest of the friends, simply say "frequency" and their eyes glaze over haha. So I have an idea of where you're coming from. I appreciate all the thoughtful discussion on this. This is why I love staying connected to this forum.
 


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