Feedback on leads in mix

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by jmill00, Oct 28, 2019.

  1. jmill00

    jmill00 SS.org Regular

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    I recently finished the track below. I am always looking to improve every aspect, but I'm specifically looking for feedback on the EQ and overall mix of the leads here. I struggle to get the lead tone I'm looking for, and when mixing the leads, I'm often unsure of how I could improve.

    Feedback appreciated on any aspect of the mix.

     
  2. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Your solo clean intro lead sounds extremely compressed, I don't know if this is a guitar with EMGs or you're just smashing it, but you've got this very bright initial ping to the attack that's absolutely perfectly level with the rest of the attack, in ways that sounds kind of unattural to me. When you get into the Gilmour-y section after that, some of the loweer runs are getting lost, as well, I don't know if its dynamics or EQ, but either way I suspect a lot of the issue is the bright rhythm guitar ringing out behind it is masking the lead. Really, a lot of the mix sounds pretty compressed to me, notably the drums, so I don't know if this is the result of some sort of master bus compressor, or if you're just being very aggressive with your clean guitars and your drum kit.


    The distorted lead that comes in after that, this gets into philosophy maybe a bit too much, but it sounds like the approach you're taking to getting the leads and the rhythms to fit together is to make the leads brighter and try to sit them on "top" of the rhythms, from a frequency standpoint. Relatedly, you have a pretty "big" rhythm sound. I'd say as a result your lead guitar is sounding a bit thin, and that maybe downsizing the rhythm tracks in the mix a little and leaving yourself some more space for the leads would better serve the music here, since this is first and foremost a guitar instrumental. If the guitar is your "lead" voice in this song, then everything else in the song should be supporting it, and I'd rather hear this with a thicker lead sound and a less-expansive rhythm sound.
     
  3. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    I disagree. Do more rhythm sounds, and add large low end eq shelves to all rhythm tracks, and cut all 2-8khz from your lead guitar, reverb on 10seconds, 100%mix

    In all seriousness. I would echo the compression. I dont know if EQ would really help, but I feel that the space of the mix, especially the clean parts, would be better. Maybe during the heavier parts, do a layered melody of single notes to imply the arpeggiated chords. Also, dont forget that subtle saturation, even on clean stuff, can help it poke out a bit more without changing perceived tone that much.

    But this is more minutiae of the mix, as a song it was a fun and interesting listen!
     
  4. jmill00

    jmill00 SS.org Regular

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    Drew and newamerikangospel, thank you both for your feedback! I really appreciate the breakdown. I think I don't realize how much compression I am using. I do have quite a bit on the drums. I've been tweaking the EQ and compression to try to make them punchier which might not have been needed as much on this song anyway.

    The rhythm guitars are quad tracked. Maybe double tracking them instead to help the leads breathe? I don't usually make songs this lead focused, so I think I ended up mixing it the way I would a more rhythm focused song. The pickups are Duncan Solars.

    The clean tone I am using is the "Gundy-Gilmourish" Kemper profile which has compression on the profile itself. Then for some reason, I added a little more compression in Reaper. This profile has a lot of other effects on it as well.

    I do wonder if my extreme compression issue is largely due to what I put on the master bus, as you alluded to Drew. After I mix everything down and bounce it to a single track, all I do is put a "mastering" plugin on it. I use the Limiter No6 (Vladislav Goncharov) plugin which has a compressor, limiter, and a few other things. Clearly I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to mastering. :)
     
  5. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Mastering is basically a dark art. I didn't check levels against other recordings or anything ehre, but in general I'm a fan of fairly modest application of limiters, and use reference mixes from before the loudness wars really got heated. And, anything I REALLY care about, I have no problem paying someone else to do it, if I was sending it off for replication on an album.

    So, newamerikangospel is coming at this from a different angle, and like I said this is philosophy more than right or wrong. The only thing I'd say I would go up to bat and defend here is when arranging a song you should really have an understanding of what the "central" part of it is, what the element is that makes the song tick, and your arrangement, tracking, and mixing decisions should all be informed by that understanding... But, say, there's no reason why you couldn't look at this as a riff-dominated song and in that case the leads should be made to fit around your rhythm tracks. I personally tend to write more from a melody focus on the guitars and want my lead line to be the one the rest of the song is supporting... but that's absolutely my own bias rather than, wait for it... gospel. *rimshot* thank you, I'll be here all night.

    So, the best way to make your rhythm tones sound huge is to at least double track, probably quad track, and use complimentary rather than identical tones. I personally, when recording my own instrumental reason, double track and use identical or nearly so tones for that exact reason, that I'm trying NOT to create this huge wall of sound because I want to save a lot of bandwidth for my lead tone. Definitely not the only way to tackle stuff like this, but I mention this only because I think it's important to be thinking about this wile arranging and tracking a song, and to be making very conscious decisions here to support your overarching goals. Here, the tracking is already finished, but it's easy enough to simply mute one stereo pair and see if the song sounds less like elements are fighting for space if you only have double tracked guitars. Mute a pair, walk away for a couple minutes, and come back and play from the start, and see what you think.

    Also, as you're realizing, you have to be a bit careful when stacking compressors at multiple stages because of the way even modest compression applied 3-4 times can really stack up (and because it takes some practice before you really start to hear it). This is actually one of the reasons I don't really love modelers and presets, because there was already probably moderate compression on the clean lead (possibly quite heavy - if that patch was dialed in with singlecoils and you were using a hot humbucker, the signal hitting the Kemper was likely a lot hotter than it was when this Gundy guy was creating it, so the compressor is probably working in a more aggressive manner on your guitar than the original) and you may not have even known it at the time. I'd try either bypassing or dialing back the compression in the mix, and seeing if that opens things up a bit.

    EDIT - also, I just read newamerikangospel's post again, and it's pretty clear that first bit was a joke - I need more coffee. :lol: I'll also say I was VERY pleasantly surprised, after the clean intro, that this ended up NOT being a djent instrumental. :lol:
     
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  6. newamerikangospel

    newamerikangospel Tonight.......you

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    It's even more funny reading that, realizing Drew was thinking "how do I steer this guy away from this terrible advice without sounding like a dick" :lol:
     
  7. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Well, I didn't actually read it right the first time, I thought you were suggesting making that cut out of the rhythm guitars to darken them up a little and carve out space for the leads, and I don't think the magnitude of the cut really clicked until I went back and re-read it. :lol:

    There are definitely a few ways to fit together leads and rhythm guitars, and favoring a thicker, darker, less cutting rhythm tone with a brighter, thinner, more cutting lead can totally work. At a first glance I thought that was what you were suggesting. :lol:
     
  8. jmill00

    jmill00 SS.org Regular

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    I had to re-read newamerikangospel's first paragraph a few times myself. I was thinking o_O.

    I'm going to take everything you guys said and try to apply it to my next recording and see what happens.

    Also, I have always wanted to send one of my songs off to a pro to mix/master.
     

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