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Full Version: Transcention (Part 1: Improvement Series)
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Hey guys. Haven't been around much lately... I've been spending a lot of time getting intimate and friendly with updated monitoring and improved room acoustics. In order to do that, I've been freshly mixing songs from scratch that I've mixed before, then A/B-ing my new master to the old one.

It's amazing how much some of those old mixes sucked given how proud I was of my work at the time... but that's neither here or there. I'm going to post a series of these test mixes over the next few weeks, mainly so that forum members who are quite new to mixing can hear the improvements that are possible with better monitoring, acoustics and lots of practice. I'll link to the old mix thread so you can compare if you like. Any questions anyone has about either mix or the difference between the two, I'll gladly answer the best I can.... in every post of this series, I've kept the project file for the old mix, so while I may not understand what the hell I was thinking at the time, it'll be easy enough to see what I did Tongue

I'm not a pro engineer and I've only been doing this for about a year and a half now, but hopefully this series will he helpful to the newbies. Almost everything I know about mixing, I learned here on the forum... just paying it forward.

Here's my original mix for Transcention:
good idea, Pauli!! I downloaded both files and played them at the same volume so I wouldn't be fooled by the loudest one.

I really liked the first one. Very clear and I think you did a great work with those synths. Then I played the new mix and I can say that you've improved BIG TIME!!! If I thought that the synths were good in the first mix, now they are incredibly good! also the drums and bass are perfect to me!!

Enjoy your new monitors!!! Smile
Hey man, thanks for checking it out. The important difference between the two was more time spent adding color and character to the synths. Polyana is great, but it's sort of a blank slate and almost every musical element here is Polyana, so modulation, saturation, stereo jiggery pockery, tonal reverbs/delays.. it all helps create contrast and interest.

So you raise a good point that I hope any newbies who might happen upon this thread take seriously.... volume matching and gain staging. For those who haven't learned these critical skills yet, let me stress that they're ABSOLUTELY VITAL to getting a good mix.... and the better you get at level matching and gain staging, the better you will get at mixing. Most people will automatically interpret a musical sound that's louder as sounding better when they're focusing on it, although that's not always the case. Since Juan was thoughtful enough to bring it up, I'll add to the discussion with a quick explanation to matching/staging as it pertains to mixing.

Every time you make a processing decision-- it could be EQ, compression, or anything else-- you're also likely to incur a change in the subjective level of the material. For instance, most EQ and compression applied during mixdown are subtractive processes, which ultimately means that after processing, the material will be lower in level. If you bypass the plugin to evaluate the change, the track's level will return to normal, and may initially sound better until you make the decision to move on and start focusing on something else. Even worse are those times we choose to use additive processes like distortion or EQ boosts, which will often seem like instant improvements due to the increased level... even though you might be making things much worse.

On top of all of this, since you've already balanced the tracks against one another while working up a rough mix, these collateral level changes might have you reaching for the fader to correct the imbalance ... and if you decide to ditch a plugin after 3 or 4 plugins worth of fader tweaks... well, you may as well have skipped the rough balance altogether! This makes for a disorganized and frustrating mixing experience, and you'll often use way more processing than is necessary, which is generally also a bad thing.

Fortunately, the entire problem is easily solved and it gets easier with practice. Most plugins feature a parameter called either output, gain, trim, or makeup gain that will allow you to compensate for any level alterations. Simply bypass the plugin and reintroduce it as you tweak the output until the level difference is resolved. This will give you an unbiased A/B comparison... so you can evaluate if the plugin is helping at all! If you're diligent, you should be able to bypass the entire FX chain without a significant difference in level, and that can REALLY put things into perspective.

This also applies to comparing my new mixes with my originals... the new mixes are all a good deal louder than the originals due to several factors, so you'll get the most benefit from the comparison if you put them side by side in your DAW and adjust the faders until they seem to be roughly the same volume when solo'd. Use a similar technique when comparing your own mixes to a commercial reference for a more accurate comparison... you'll often find that your mixes are quite a bit better than you thought, but you'll also know right away if you're on the wrong track and why.

I considered providing both files, volume matched, on the same thread to facilitate comparison... but I'm now beginning to think that it would be of more benefit to inexperienced mixers to try it on their own to start training their ears. Thanks again for bringing it up, Juan.... feel free to contribute any time Big Grin