Mixing … Any “Good” Yet? Part III

Dave Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Engineering, Music/Audio, Opinions, Personal, Tech 1 Comment

In my last two installments (part I and part II) of this “Manifesto”, I chatted a bit about what I I’ve learned to make me a better mixer and I also shared some of the “a-ha” moments that I came across.

In this post, I thought I’d share some of the ways in which I put a mix of a contemporary pop tune together – specifically getting into some of the effects and routings I like to use.

Return to Sender

What I’ve got here is a snapshot of the effects sends group I used in one of my mixes.  I usually start off with a template of sends.  Here’s what I start off with:

  • 1/8 Delay (usually set to feedback one iteration)
  • 1/4 Delay (usually set to feedback one iteration)
  • 1/2 Delay (usually set to feedback one iteration)
  • Multitap Delay (for special effects)
  • Early Reflection Only Reverb (Medium Room)
  • Short Plate Reverb
  • Long Plate Reverb
  • Studio Room Reverb
  • Hall Reverb
  • Gated Room Reverb
  • “Harmonizer” – this is actually a trick I took from Charles Dye‘s Mix it Like a Record video – instead of the complicated channel splitting/delay/pitch shifting he does, I just use Audio Damage’s Discord to accomplish essentially the same thing – slightly detune and delay each channel differently to create subtle comb filtering/thickening.
  • Phaser – set at slow modulation: usually 2 bar
  • Chorus
  • Flange

Other than that, I add things as I see fit – sometimes to create odd special effects that need to be in “send” rather than “insert” positions.  Things such as Leslie or other Amp Simultions, Bit-Crushers / Distortion, compressors / limiters (parallel compression)… they could all go into a “send” category.

Insert Carefully

Some of the things I could use on inserts:

  • Channel Strip / tube / tape / solid state circuitry emulation.
  • Compression / Limiter
  • Channel Parametric EQ
  • Pitch Correction (especially if I’m singing 🙂 )
  • Everything else is game as well

Before Heading off the Bus

I’ll admit it – as you can see from the picture above, there’s quite a few things that are “active” on my master bus channel in this mix:

In this mix, it’s a pile o’ stuff on the final stage before the speakers, but it’s subtle.  The channel strip is applying a bit of (I think) SSL magic dust, I’m using Izotope for essentially a visual spectrometer view of the wave before it hits the other stuff – I like the visuals on the scope and the ability to apply a 3-5 second moving average view on it.  I’m using the T-Racks to apply some nice Fairchild“ish” limiting to the final sound as well as some gentle Linear Phase EQ‘ing (possibly some multiband limiting if needed).  The SpectraPhy limiter is also in there to catch any peaks that go through the T-Racks stuff – set to literally only catch up to 0.1 of anything that comes through.  The TTDynamic is in there to be a safety check on the dynamic range content of the mix.

Final Thoughts

The sad thing is, I can’t say that this is what I use It seems like it’s a lot of processing happening in the mix, but I can’t really say that I’m using anything really heavily.  There’s no one effect, that I’m hitting hard – except possibly for some of the insert effects.

I think, if anything, there are two contradictory things that I’d hazard to float out there as the “uber-lessons-learned” of this manifesto.  When mixing, there are no “rules” – you can definitely use techniques to extremes: notch the hell out of an EQ and boost it, push things trough a bit-crusher at 4-bits so that a wall of static comes out… whatever sounds good to your ears.

That being said, not EVERYTHING needs to be or has to be tweaked to the extreme.  I think I’d hazard to stay in the realm of subtle when dealing with send and master bus effects.  Gentle and subtle definitely go a long way in the long run – especially when signals are converging on buses.

I certainly hope this helps others.  I’m sure that this isn’t the last of my lessons-learned, but for some reason, this time seemed like a great pit-stop on my mixing journey to share.

Happy Mixing!

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