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Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Member Since: Mar 20, 2009


Awhile ago you mentioned a small tutorial on what you did to mix/master the collaboration done between a few of us here on this forum. Since I have a band coming to the studio here in a few weeks, I would love to gain some insight on what you did. I'm not really looking for precise settings, but more or less a rundown of what general plugins were used (per instrument) and what EQ manipulation you did.... especially for kick, snare, and guitars.

Thanks in advance

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Since: Jan 30, 2011

Dec 14, 2011 09:33 pm

That's right! I was gonna post some sort of video tutorial but I couldn't really figure it out/never got around to it.

Anyway, get ready for a wall of text!

So I usually start with drums no matter what kind of music Im mixing. Drums are cool because they're "one" instrument but they occupy the whole freq spectrum. So I like to build around the drums. (I suppose I should mention I'm 100% self taught, so if there is a "right" way to do things, I hope I'm doing it haha)

So what I did in this case was start with the overhead track. Since I have a close-mic'd kick, I don't need any of the boomy lows from the overheads, so I cut those out. For the most part, that's what I did eq-wise. Some minor tweaks here and there but that all depends on the mix. Here's where the fun comes in...I did some parallel compression using the plugin EZmix by toontrack, but just because there's a really great preset that includes a tape drive. As long as you're compressing the outcome is the same, a juicier more fluid sounding room. Then I used a stereo widener (waves S1-imager, but most daws have one included) to give it more spread.

For the kick I just scooped the freqs that made it sound "boxy" which was about 200-500 hz. I also thought it needed some umph so I added a couple db at like 70 hz. And I prefer a more pronounced kick, so I threw in a high shelf adding about 4db of click. It really helped it cut through, since there's so much else going on. On a mellower song, you might just leave the click out and go for more of a thump. I also compressed it with a thresh of about -20 and a ratio of 4. Since there isn't very many super fast kick parts, I had a pretty slow release.

And the snare was cool because with all the bleed from the other drums, when I added highs to give it presence, it gave everything else that extra boost. So all I did with the eq was cut some low end, boost some highs, and killed the "ring". There was this annoying ringing freq at exactly 250 hz, so I just put my eq on the skinniest (is that right? haha) q and dropped it as low as i could. Then I compressed the crap out of it to get an almost "squishy" sound (there was enough attack in the overheads) and put some reverb on it (because everyone likes a verbed up snare).

Guitars were a little more tricky. Since it was a collab, the different leads were recorded under different circumstances with different gear. So tonally, they were very at odds with each other. To try and fix that, I ran the lead (well, there were two leads. I'm referring to the one that comes in first. We'll call it lead A) through an amp sim to give it more breakup and color. I used waves GTR on lead A, and pretty much left lead B alone. There was plenty of distortion from the original tracking. I just eq'd lead B with some highs since it was a little dull as compared to the other lead. And of course, I added a delay that was synced to the quarter note of the tempo. I had the wet/dry mix pretty low, just enough to give it a wet sound without it actually sounding like delay.

With the rhythm guitar track, all it needed was some love in the sizzle department. Like, a LOT of love. It was being swallowed up by almost everything else. So I added a high shelf at about 18db with a cutoff around 1k hz.

The bass was simple enough. The bass sim that was used had a really great tone, but it was a bit dry for my taste. So I threw some bass distortion on it (the plugin is TSE BOD standing for bass overdrive, and its FREE. I use it on ALL my bass tracks, especially because I mix mostly metal). I didn't need to compress it at all because...well....it didnt need it! I will usually smush the crud out of a bass track to get an even level no matter what string I'm wailing on but this bass track was leveled really well and its a walking kind of bass line that drives the song a long. So big dynamic parts are good thing.

All I did on the piano track was throw a pretty aggressive high pass filter on it and compress a bit. The high pass cut everything from about 400 hz, and I added a high shelf to brighten it up a bit. I used a vocal preset on the piano compression to give it more presence. Most compression plugins have a generic "vocal" preset. But be weary with compressing pianos, or they'll get all nasty and fake sounding. I used it to make it sound like the pianist was really bangin away at those keys.

I did almost nothing to the organ. I just ran it through that TSE BOD for some grit.

And last but no least, on the mastering side of things I just added a limiter (waves L2).

So there you have it, did that make sense? I personally find video tutorials a lot more interesting and easier to follow. If I need to clarify anything just lemme know.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Dec 15, 2011 03:14 pm

That was great! I won't have all the plugins you mentioned, but it gives me enough information to look within what I already have.

Where I struggle the most is actually figuring out compression and EQ for the kick and snare. But I think a lot of my previous attempts were pure shite because of the recording itself. For this project, I recorded the drums with a completely different mic position plus some isolation treatments in the room. This definitely gives me a good starting point (again)!! LOL!!

Thanks a ton!!!

Since: Jan 30, 2011

Dec 15, 2011 03:24 pm

I'm still not 100% on how/why to use compression. I should study up on articles on it but like I said, reading bores me. If its not a video, I usually don't take the time. I usually spend most of my time experimenting, just knowing what sounds bad and listening for what sounds good.

Since: Feb 07, 2005

Dec 15, 2011 03:28 pm

I just use compression to make the kick/snare levels even in velocity.

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Dec 15, 2011 03:48 pm

Right... but what helps you guys figure out the threshold and the ratio? I get the 4:1 or 6:1 etc... I just don't know when to use one over the other.

If the kick toggles between lets say -17db and -8db, what makes the most sense? That's 9 dbs between the lowest and the highest peaks. So my math would say use 3:1 (for every 3dbs over, add 1db to overall). If I'm doing it correctly, then out of that 9dbs of difference, the net gain is really only +3 added to my threshold (assuming my threshold was indeed -17db).... Right? If I do 5:1, then the net gain is only +1 ... since the dbs never exceed 10dbs of gain. Am I even close? LOL!!!

Since: Jan 30, 2011

Dec 15, 2011 04:04 pm

HAHA I didn't understand half of that. If I'd have known there was math involved......:P

Rockstar Vatican Assassin
Since: Mar 20, 2009

Dec 15, 2011 04:19 pm

Exactly... that's why I'm so confused. Almost all compression tuts say kick will be 6:1 or 8:1. But if my difference between lows and highs is only 9dbs... then why use 6:1 (since that assumes the difference between low and high peaks is greater than 12dbs). I dunno... that's how I read it. I could be COMPLETELY WRONG!! And I presume, at this point, that I am!!! Hehehehe!!!

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Since: May 10, 2002

Sep 01, 2014 10:20 pm

Do a lot of listening and clearly define the problems you hear. A good example is the kick. Solo the kick. Does it sound like what you want? If not, use a parametric eq and build a pretty good hump with a wide bell shape around 90hz. Go ahead and pull it up a lot. Exaggerate the effect. Sweep back and forth until you find that frequency you are missing for a good solid kick. Once you find the frequency start reducing the size of the boost until you just get the desired amount you want. If you're missing kick snap from the batter, do the same thing around 200 and sweep around. Play with eq until you get the sound you want. If you just can't pull out the sound you want, especially in the low end of the kick, move to a sound morphing plug to assist in getting that sound.

Listen to the Kick now in terms of "pop". Is it crisp or boomy? If it is boomy and you want crisp, put a compressor on it and play with the attack and release times, especially the attack. This will help you tighten things up. The lower the attack the more "punch". You can use any ratio from about 3 to 1 on up to do this part. A ratio of 3 to 1 is relatively benign in regard to evening volume.

Listen again to the kick with the rest of the piece for relative volume. If the kick is all over the board, back to the compressor. Use one of the lowest volume kick samples to set the threshold of the compressor. Set it so it just barely engages compression. Play with different ratio settings remembering that the greater the ratio the less dynamic range, until you get the volume variations under control. If the kick is still low in certain parts of the song, ride the fader to make those adjustments.

You can use this general approach with each voice in a mix. I'm not that great at knowing what each piece of a drum kit should sound like, so I invited my drummer over for a session and he did the eq alterations, which I saved as templates for future recordings by him. He did a great job. I know enough to know when it sounds good. I don't recommend using templates for guitar and keys as every patch/effect composite will be different. On some songs I find myself breaking out segments of guitar and keyboard and eqing those segments differently within a single song.

Now it's time to figure who owns what turf. The battle is on!!! Get things balanced out pretty good using the faders and again, listen. Now with everybody playing. This is especially critical in the bottom end at around 200hz and lower. Guitar, Keys, Kick, bass are all developing pretty solid low ends. Stack rank who will be the king of the low end and who will just kinda be there. Start carving at the frequency curves of others to make room for the King.

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