I refer back to Ian Shepherd’s article How to Avoid Over-compressing Your Mix quite often. Just in the last week I think I’ve emailed that link to people at least 5 times.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about compression…and about a rule of thumb Ian alludes to.
It goes like this: If the gain reduction doesn’t return to zero several times per bar, you’re compressing too much.
This is something I used to believe. I had simply never given it much thought. Maybe you’re in the same boat?
I made the mistake of confusing headroom with dynamic range.
Put simply, when I looked at the master fader, if there was a lot of room between the loudest peak of my mix and 0 dBFS (clipping, the part where the red light comes on), then I assumed my mix had plenty of dynamic range. I imagined my mastering engineer opening up the mix, smiling to himself and saying, “Man, that Joe has done it again. Look at all this dynamic range!” Wrong.
It turns out I simply had a fundamental misunderstanding of dynamic range. I would hear engineers lament the fact that people were over-compressing their mixes, the so-called “loudness wars.” Everyone was in a craze of adding a big, fat limiter to their mixes to make them super-loud.
More mixing talk today.
Does this describe how you mix?
- Start the mix. Very excited.
- Work for several hours. This thing is sounding good.
- Bounce it to go listen your car. Ready to bask in the glory of my mix.
- Adjust the stereo in the car. Man, these car speakers sound awful.
- Suddenly realize it’s not the car speakers. Uh-oh.
- Bang your head on the steering wheel. Why does it sound so bad?!
- Walk slowly back to your studio. Dejected.
- Mix for several more hours. My ears are tired.
- Mix for a few more hours. Is it getting better or worse?
- Mix for a few more hours. Umm…am I done yet?
You hear it all over the place. “Help! My mixes don’t translate!”
In other words, “My mix sounds awesome in my studio, but then when I play it anywhere else – in my car, on my stereo, on my iPod – it sounds awful.”
What’s the problem? It could be any number of things – your monitors, your room, your headphones…maybe even your recordings themselves. But let’s step away from talking about gear, and let’s focus on your ears.
It’s no secret that mixing is a learning experience. It simply takes time. Every mix I do, I get a little bit better. I mix a little faster. I’m able to get the sounds I want more quickly. I know how to solve common problems. I pick up little tricks along the way.
What’s one thing you can do right now to start improving your mixes?
First things first…Home Studio Corner is two years old today! Yep, on April 13th, 2009, I posted my very first article.
Happy Birthday, HSC!
Alright, on to mixing…
Do you sometimes sit in front of a session, and you know you’re ready to mix, but you don’t know where to start?
Let me share with you two different approaches to mixing. Neither one is “right” or “wrong,” but perhaps being familiar with both will help you get the ball rolling on your next mix.
When having a discussion about mixing, you obviously need to talk about the monitoring environment. Studio monitors, the acoustics of the room, acoustic treatment, monitor isolation pads, monitor placement, distance from the monitors, etc.
We would hopefully all agree that being able to accurately hear what’s going on in the mix is very important. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. An amazing pair of expensive studio monitors won’t sound all that great if the room isn’t treated.
But…what about headphones?
For the next 10 days, I’m going into “mixing” mode. I’ll be posting a BUNCH of articles and videos on mixing. Why?
Well, for one thing I love mixing. It’s such a fun, creative process.
Secondly, I’m launching MixWithUs.com again. It’s happening on Monday, April 19th. For those of you who don’t know what MWU is, it’s a mixing community, where I, over the course of 10 weeks, give you the multi-track audio files from my entire album I released last fall, in addition to training videos on how I mixed each song.
I’ll be posting more details later…but get ready to join. It’s gonna be awesome.
Okay, on to today’s topic:
You’re sitting in front of a mix, and you know you need to use some EQ on the guitars to get rid of some of the muddy-ness. You grab your favorite EQ plug-in and get ready to wield your magic.
You use a high-Q boost to find that offending frequency. Now what? Cut it by 15 dB? Sounds like a plan!
Hold on. Easy there, tiger.
This past Saturday night I was hanging out with all of my brand new VIP Members at our very first live VIP Session. During the session I showed them how I would mix a live recording from a concert I played in a few months ago.