Sound Check Step By Step Mixing at Electrokitty Studio
posted by March 29 at 12:28 PMon
Engineer / producer, Gary Reynolds, from Electrokitty Studio in Wallingford, is here on Lineoutís Sound Check today to talk about mixing.
Clients of Electrokitty have been U2, Brandi Carlile, Shuggie, Schoolyard Heroes, Carrie Underwood, and the Purrs.
** Gary will be monitoring this post, so if you have any questions, ask away. Here is Gary:
We use a 56 channel Neve 8128 with flying fader automation. It came from Electric Ladyland in NY and was the console for some Public Enemy, Cars, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Mixing is a blending of levels. Mixing engineers used to be called Ďbalance engineersí. They decided the mix. Itís still the same really, a balancing of things.
Main points of a mix are dialing the EQ, compression, reverb, effects, levels, and panning.
- STEP 1: I always ask, ĎWhat kind of music is it?í ‘What is the purpose of the music?’ I put the faders up at 0 and listen to the song there initially.
Each song has a statement. I figure out what that statement is. I figure out what makes the song tick and accentuate that. Is it a guitar riff, or a chorus, or a particular change that stands out?
The Neve has nice stereo imaging. Things sit well in the Neve's stereo field and sound very defined. It has good top and bottom end, the frequency responses go really low. It just has a good footprint, it puts a quality stamp on a sound. Itís easy to EQ and doesnít cut your head off when you crank the upper frequencies.
- STEP 2: For rock bands I start with drums. First thing I do is check the phase on the mics. I solo the different mics and start to EQ. I get rid of frequencies that donít need to be there.
I compress the kick and snare. I level them off. I want the kick and snare to be equal but not too much. I might use a gate. Sometimes Iíll run the snare or kick out on a separate channel, gate them, and bring them back under the non gated kick or snare. Sometimes Iíll take all the drums out on a stereo bus, then compress, and bring them back in on a separate channel and mix it in with the original drums.
- STEP 3: Then I bring in the bass. Iíll compress it and run it through a couple of different effects because I want it to be punchy.
- STEP 4: Then itís guitar. Iíll EQ a bit and use a filter to cut out low end. Iím a filter fanatic. If a guitar doesnít have a lot of top end, Iíll cut it out. Itís just taking up space.
I try to open up as much space as possible.
- STEP 5: Then itís time for vocals. Iíll compress a little and get general levels, maybe find an effect. When Iím working on vocs, usually I just have them with the drum and bass to start. Iíll see if they need to be wet. On fast songs, Iíll use short delays. Spacey songs, Iíll use a reverb.
- STEP 6: Then I listen and tweak. Iíll jump around and whittle down. Maybe the bass is too loud, or the vocals need to come up. I go through passes until the mix starts to sit right. You can hear when everything sounds like it has itís place.
If something still isnít sounding right, Iíll yank it and do something different. Like if the bass still doesnít sound right, Iíll take it back to zero and try a different compression or run it through an outboard EQ. If itís a dense mix, Iíll run it through a distortion box or pedal and bring it back in under the original.
- STEP 7: Once the mix is sitting, Iíll move on to automation. Iíll do my mutes, like taking out the talking before a take, which cleans it out a bunch.
Here, Iíll do my vocal rides and guitar rides. Iíll start looking at the whole song. Maybe the chorus needs to kick more, maybe there needs to be an extra snare or vocal during the chorus. Iíll trim out the unneeded things, like that 3rd guitar. Iíll clarify the sections of the song.
The 1st part of mixing is getting the sounds to sound good. The 2nd part is to make the song go somewhere. Make parts leap out. Give some dynamics.
Iíll start off listening loud to get into the vibe of the song. But when Iím working on the details, Iíll pull it down to a quieter level. It will remain fairly quiet for the rest of the mix. Iíll turn it up in spots to see if parts are working.
You gotta make sure it sounds good both loud and soft. Thatís the trick.
I listen on 3 sets and sizes of speakers. Big, medium, and small. If the mix sounds correct on all the speakers, then it works. The goal is to have it sound the same on all 3 sets of speakers. It should be able to sound good in any room or any stereo.
- STEP 8: There is a point when a mix is finished. Itís easy to over mix. Over mixing can suck the life out of a song.
Lastly, it depends on the projectís budget. If a band has only has 2 days to mix their entire record, Iíll spend the time to get it right on 1 song and apply those settings to the rest of the songs. This makes sense if you donít have time to take each song separately. Iíll pick a song that best represents their sound.
Of course, there will be a couple songs that differ. But using the base settings of the one song, itís easy to make adjustments.
I think the best way to learn is to make mistakes. After you screw up a bunch a mixes, you start to have a sense of what works and what doesnít. You start to know when a mix is finished and when it still needs tweaking.