Here are the notes to my “Mix Engineering 101” video:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mix_engineer => A mix engineer, also referred to as “mixing engineer”, is a person who, once all instruments, voices, and sounds, etc., have been recorded, creates what is called the final version (also known as “final mix” or “mixdown”) of a song, hence the term “mix engineer”.
He or she ‘blends’ or ‘mixes’ the elements of the recorded piece together, to achieve a good balance of the instrumental and vocal volume, as well their frequency contents, while also deciding other properties such as pan positioning, effects, and so on.
YouTube Link => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxrL8qpTeXE
The drums come from Logic’s “Ultrabeat” drum machine that comes stock with Logic 9.. In fact, everything that I use in this video comes stock with Logic Express (I don’t need Logic Pro because I already own Final Cut Studio, which includes Soundtrack Pro).
Instead of outputting the drums to one stereo track, I sent each individual element (Kick, Snare, Hat) to its own mono track so I could put effects on each one separately. If you don’t do it that way, when you add bass (low frequency information) to the kick drum, you’re also adding bass to the low end of the snare, which is a waste of bandwidth, changes the sound of your snare, and makes it tougher for your kick to occupy its own individual space in the mix.
What this does is it gives each side a slightly distinct flavor instead of seeming like a mono track that was copied and split.
Another thing you can do to make each side distinct is to put different amounts of delay on each one, giving it more of a stereo effect.
Another thing you can do is EQ (equalize) them differently so that one is brighter than the other, and people can clearly tell them apart.
Another thing you can do to create distinction, which I didn’t do in this video, is use different Pedalboard settings for each track. I could have used different stomp boxes or I could have used the same boxes with different values for the parameters.
Some musicians like to quad-track their guitars, actually. This would involve playing the same line four times, panning two instances to the right and two to the left, potentially at 100% and 80% to either side, and probably using two different amp/cabinet setups, creating a “wall of sound”.
I used two tracks of vocals in this video, although I had eight (8). They’re both very slightly panned off-center (+/- 3) so there’s some separation between them and also because if I choose to widen the stereo field, they’ll become more distinct while still supporting each other.
I also sent each track to “bus 4”, which feeds my harmony tracks, which are panned hard left (100%) and hard right. Each track is delayed separately and pitch shifted in different directions (+9 cents on one side, and -9 cents on the other side). When you blend these in at a volume slightly lower than your lead vocal track, it gives a wider effect which makes it tougher for the other elements in your song that go straight down the middle (bass, snare, kick drum) to mask/block your vocal from being heard.
My two vocal tracks and my two harmony tracks both feed my Sub Voc, or vocal submix stereo track. The Sub Voc feeds my stereo output channel. There are at least three reasons to use a vocal submix. 1) You can automate your volume for all of your vocals at the same time with one fader, instead of having to automate each track individually. 2) You can put an effect on this one track instead of putting the same effect on all of your vocal tracks, saving time and CPU usage. 3) If your vocals don’t seem to sit right in the mix, you can put a compressor on your “everything except vocals” track (in the video, “Sub Inst”) and set your sidechain to listen to your Voc Sub track and duck the entire rest of the program every time there’s information on your vocal channel.
Reverb & Output
Reverb is something you may or may not want to use. What it does is emulate an acoustic environment, like a room or a stadium. The goal is to make each element seem like they were playing in the same space. Depending on the effect you’re going for with your song, that might be a good idea and it might not.
The way I have it set up in this video is that both my Sub Inst and Sub Voc are sending information to my Reverb channel. The amount that I send from each submix determines how loud each element is in the reverb (basically, the echo you would hear if you were listening to a band, live, in a large room).
Your “Output” track indicates the volume level that’s finally being heard. You don’t want that track to be too loud, or else you’ll hear unpleasant and unplanned distortion, that will make your song sound horrible (or unplayable), so you want to put a limiter on that track.
What the limiter does for you is restrict all output to a defined level. In the video, we don’t want the volume going higher than 0 dB (decibels), so the limiter is set for -.7 dB or something. This is where you get your loudness from (5m 45s into the video). Once you restrict all audio from going over a limit, you can increase the input level so the song itself gets louder, but it never distorts… The thing you have to watch out for, though, is crushing your sound and destroying its dynamic range. You don’t want every part of the song to be just as loud as every other part. This is dealt with by watching something I didn’t include in the video, which is RMS level vs. Peak level. If your RMS and Peak are almost the same, you’re pretty much screwed. While you want your Peak levels to be barely below 0 dB, you want your RMS to ride around -10 dB.
From there, it’s a pretty straightforward mix.
- Compress the kick drum to make it “smash”.
- Equalize the kick to take out frequencies you don’t wan to use.
- Compress & EQ the snare, mix it to a level that you like with the kick.
- Bring in the hi-hat, EQ it, match it to the kick & snare.
- Bring in the DI (direct input) of the guitar tracks.
- Use Pedalboard to make it sound grungy, mix in with the drums.
- Bring in vocals, add pitch correction, add harmony send/return tracks.
- Add compression & EQ to “Sub Inst”.
- Add compression & EQ to “Sub Voc”.
- Send Sub Voc & Sub Inst to Reverb.
- EQ Reverb track to remove bass frequencies.
- Add limiter to Output channel to increase loudness.
- Adjust individual elements that have been exaggerated by adding loudness.
- Check to see how each section works with other sections.
- Listen to the entire mix.
If you have questions, comments or would like to see an individual tutorial video on any of the sections I outlined here, leave me a comment below or on my Facebook page.
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