Mixing - song by song, or the whole thing?

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Abomb Muchbaby
Member Since: Jul 02, 2009

So I took a look around, and it's been touched on. But I couldn't find a topic that was exactly what I was looking for, so here it is.

I am nearing the end of an 11 song project. I currently have all of the songs on a single "project" file. Logic tells me that it would be quite the time saver to mix the entire project and be done with it...

For some reason, I cannot get past the overwhelming desire to break the project up into individual songs so that I can apply different things to each song. The songs are fairly versatile, ranging from in your face rock, to a more mellow feel and groove.

My third and final thought was to categorize the songs that I feel would work well together, and break the project into two or three "group projects". This would let me crank the loud guitars for the rock stuff, and layoff for the mellow. Thoughts?

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Since: Apr 03, 2002

Jun 17, 2013 02:32 pm

Each and every song is a unique animal of it's own, and deserves individual attention when being mixed, I can't even imagine trying mix 11 songs with the exact same settings.

When they are all mixed to your liking individually, then you master them with the bigger picture in mind, keeping the balance betwee them in terms of volume, harmonic balancing and smooth, logical progression from song to song to make a pleasant listening experience from beginning to end.

Very few people think like that any more, since things like iTunes have evolved, I am unsure if people have the "compilation" type of mindset any more...it's all about singles now.

Abomb Muchbaby
Since: Jul 02, 2009

Jun 17, 2013 04:01 pm

Thanks for the input... I couldn't agree more. It seems that in my experience in larger recording studios, the entire session is mixed as a whole. But I feel that there are subtle things that need emphasis (or de-emphasis!) in some cases, and mixing across the board seems like you would always be chasing your tail...

I also like what you mentioned about the flow/balance/volumes/etc. We have all heard that 3-4 song ep where you have to crank the volume on the first song, and then you blow your speakers on the second. Simply put, I feel the goal should be consistency and balance, while also having individuality in each song.

Thanks a lot man. I love this site.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Jun 17, 2013 04:04 pm

Most of the music I record is the same band, same style of music, same mics, same amps, same everything. So there's very little point in mixing per song since you know you want the drums to sound the same, the instruments panned the same way, all the EQ and FX the same......

That said... I'll usually put all the songs with the same tempo along a single timeline. Since Decay/Reverb and other plugins run along with time signatures, I keep them grouped sort of speak. Then, I'll copy that 'mix template' as a new project and add all the other songs that follow a different time signature into that project. Then adjust decay/reverb/etc.. accordingly to that tempo.

I think 'per song' is a great idea when you're working with bands like the Beatles where you want each song to have its own unique sound. Not sure the same can be said for rock/metal. Pretty much want all the songs to sound the same (mix wise).

Hobbyist musician,pro recorder
Since: May 15, 2007

Jun 17, 2013 10:44 pm

Per song is best, but to block off certain songs that were recorded similarly and would benefit from similar mixes, that works as well. Last gasp need should be the whole project mix, only if you can't avoid it any other way.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Jun 17, 2013 11:49 pm

My sentiments are pretty well in line with everyone else here.

The only time I'd do a "full project mix" would be if it was a live show, where you want everything to have pretty much the same live sound, and you want to recreate the sound from the show. (Though I still make adjustments to individual songs, I make sure the whole live show has pretty much the same mix)

But for songs that were recorded individually, yeah, do what's best for each song, and then let the mastering guy worry about the project as a whole, and getting everything to have a cohesiveness. The mixer's job is to make sure every individual song is well balanced, and translates well between systems. The mastering guy worry's about everything as a whole, and to have consistency in volume, making sure it feels like everything was cut from the same cloth, etc..

However, even if you don't get it mastered, you can still kind of "finalize" the CD somewhat, use a limiter on the master channel, increase it until it starts to sound bad, and then back it off a bit. I usually shoot for around -14 to -16 dBfs for the average RMS for "finishing" a project. I do use another plug besides the limiter on the master (yeah, I really shouldn't do that) to give it a little extra vibe for the whole project, but I really try not to EQ or do anything too fancy. It is highly ill advised to try to master one's own mix. You second guess yourself doing that. :P

IIRC, commercial music could be anywhere from -10 dBfs to -14 or maybe even -16 dBfs depending on the age and type of music (although, frankly. -10 is REALLY ******* LOUD!!!!!! So I try to aim for more conservative volumes).

I tried my hand at that Liza Colby mix project from pure-mix, and the recommendation for the submitted mix was -18 to -16 dBfs average RMS. (no, I don't expect to win anything as there were 2800+ entrants, and I'll be happy enough just to be in the upper range of the bell curve)

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