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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Step By Step Mixing at Electrokitty Studio

posted by on March 29 at 12:28 PM

kitty.jpgEngineer / 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.

RSS icon Comments


Can you make me sound like Public Enemy? I've been watching tons of Flav's tv show and have decided that is the direction i need to go in.

Posted by hulky | March 29, 2007 12:50 PM

Ah, gear. Gary, this is cool. Me and my people got some good advice on phasing from Suggs last time on this and wanted to ask you about it.

How do you go about getting rid of all the phasing issues?

Posted by mixy | March 29, 2007 1:01 PM

I think they forgot to mention the "Flav" switch on the bottom of the console. you engage this switch and yes you, or anyone else, will sound exactly like Public Enemy. It's really a unique feature!

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 1:13 PM

What do you use for your small near-fields? 5's and no tweets? Is there a low-budget way to set-up or build small near-fields? Thanks, Gary.

Posted by Pico D. | March 29, 2007 1:26 PM

obviously it's best if things are in phase when they are recorded. if your using a DAW you can go down to the sample level and manually adjust the phase. for instance if you have in and out kick drum tracks you can simply move the out of phase one to line up with the in phase one. This method doesn't work very well on analog unless your really, really good at splicing:)
using just the phase reverse on the console I start by panning everything to one speaker and then make sure the overheads are in phase. then I bring in the kick get it in phase, then snare. once that sounds right then I'll bring in the toms, room, etc.
If my kick is out of phase with the overheads then I'll filp the phase on the overheads and leave the kick.
after I've done the combinations and feel that I like the way it's sitting then I'll pan it back out in stereo.
on a side note, there are also some really good sounds you can get which are out of phase. if your trying to get a guitar to have a vowel sound you can use two mics out of phase by an inch or so.

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 1:34 PM

If you mix sumo, waterslides, and teletubbies, you get flav's new tv show. next season, it's sumo wrestlers with inky tinky dolls sliding around in water parks. it's gonna be huge.

Posted by ddang | March 29, 2007 1:35 PM

I use Auratones for small speakers they work great for hearing balances, intonation, distortion, vocal and bass levels

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 1:37 PM

Could you talk about compressors?

What do you like to use? What can I get for home use that's might be somewhat affordable.

Posted by wish i knew more | March 29, 2007 1:40 PM

Gary you mention yanking. How often do you yank?

Posted by shane | March 29, 2007 1:52 PM

And I'm curious. How the hell do you move a board that big from place to place? I know you must break it up into smaller parts. But that had to have been a pain to move, right?

Posted by shane | March 29, 2007 1:54 PM

Gary, thank you for shedding light on this other-worldly mixing process. Electrokitty is a rad name, i love it.

Posted by spanky | March 29, 2007 2:14 PM

I have a pair of decent monitors. I can always get stuff to sound fine on them. But as soon as I take the mix and play it in my car or on smaller speakers, it sucks.

Help me Gary. I'll take low end off, but then it's not enough low end. And I don't have enough tracks to take things out and bring them back in. Although that sounds like a good idea.

Posted by duck | March 29, 2007 3:04 PM

I usually yank 3 or 4 times during a mix. and yes it's a pita to move. when I got it all the modules were removed and placed in boxes as were the meters, power supples and all the ribbon connectors and faders

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 3:12 PM

it's your room. try buying some acoustical treatment and mix at a very low volume to minimize the room modes.

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 3:14 PM

Thanks Gary. I will definitely try that. I probably need to just re record in another room.

What are room modes?

Posted by duck | March 29, 2007 3:25 PM

Geary Gary, i would like to ask what flying faders are.

And I heard Carrie Underwood had a tummy tuck. Is that shit true?

What was the U2 session like? Any scoop?

Posted by q | March 29, 2007 3:33 PM

I wish I knew more

compressors are cool little creatures. they all have a different color. eventually you get to know what each one sounds like. when your doing a mix you can look at an instrument and think for instance "I want this guitar to sound like a bell" or "I want the drums to sound beatleish" and that deterimes which compressor you'll use and how you'll use it.
there's no one rule for anything but I'd say if your new to compressors then I'd keep the attack slow and the ratio low. it's really easy to go overboard and take out all the transients thus making your mix sound dead and squishy.
my favorite right now are the DW Fearn vt-7 and the Chandler TG1. they're pretty much opposites. I also go through love/hate periods with them. right now I'm hating 1176's, in a month or so they'll probably be my favorite.
best buys for compressors are RNC and dbx 160x (ebay) which are cheap. next rung up urie la4, next rung Distressor, ADL. vintage gain brains are also cheap but extremely colored.
the good thing about the 160x, the ADL and the la4 is there are limited controls. they all have fixed attack and less stuff to screw the sound up with if your new.

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 3:38 PM

Unfortunantly Ms Underwood didn't show me her tummy. Robbie Adams mixed the San Diego show here. No I didn't get to meet Bono

look up room modes on google and you'll find out all about them

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 3:49 PM

carrie underwood sumo wrestles bono going down a waterslide. they land, she gives him a tummy tuck and sticks a teletubby up his ass. flav judges for style and pimpliciousness. those are some modes, duck.

Posted by trent moorman | March 29, 2007 4:03 PM

Duck, try this:

Linkwitz Room Acoustics

Posted by trent moorman | March 29, 2007 4:32 PM

And the top and bottom end, please Mr. Gary, go on. Define it for me.

Posted by sherri | March 29, 2007 4:46 PM

Hey Gary, was your board upstairs in C at Electric Lady?

Posted by shawn smith | March 29, 2007 5:31 PM

Hey Gary, was your board upstairs in C at Electric Lady?

Posted by shawn smith | March 29, 2007 5:43 PM

I'm not sure what room it was in. my tech might know I'll ask him

sherri can you clarify your question? as pertaing to a console, a mix or price points?

Posted by gary reynolds | March 29, 2007 6:46 PM

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