Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

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KermitPickle
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:06 pm

numberthirty wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:46 pm
losthighway wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 2:47 pm
Sorry, you clarified a lot of this at the same moment I was posting ^.

Re: murkiness.

In addition to the high pass filter recommendation, I'd also say low mids can really be the enemy. The 200hz-350hz region is often the worst buildup I struggle with. There are usually one or two instruments that have a fundamental in there that you don't want to kill, but for everything else, especially chord instruments with a broad range, that's where much of the muck lives.

Also, most of the excellent recordings you're listening to are mastered. Yours, I imagine, are not (?). It's not everything, but I'd say it's the last 5-10% of a good sounding record.
Going to have to second this point.

Seems like even some close miked parts of a drum kit can sometimes be an issue when it comes to this.
Ok, I'm back. Yeah that is definitely a problem area for me, and one that I've thought about a lot. I do try to make a point of making a lot of cuts in the 200-350 region on drums & guitars especially. On my last mix I was struggling with a dull-sounding lead vocal--I did a lot of EQ cuts on that track but I felt like I struggling to find a good balance between murkiness and harshness. I'm not sure I found the right balance there in the end.

Your point about mastering is well-taken, yes. Everything here is just "louden-ized" at the end. I really should just save up and send it to MoreSpaceEcho to do it properly.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:11 pm

losthighway wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 6:17 pm
Two other exercises come to mind, that might not be an instant fix for a particular mix, but might gain perspective that is helpful.

1) Take your rendered track and play it through something that has a handy graphic or parametric eq. Ideally this would be a home studio so you'd be in a different environment, but if not possible through your recording rig. Use the eq to push around the mix track. Intuitively what are you doing to make it sound 'right' on the stereo. Where are the cuts/boosts? After noting those bring things back to zero and repeat those same moves but listen for what instruments are effected. Does a particular cut mainly clean up the guitar, or bass etc?

2) Go to one of your mixes and do a 'save as' to make a duplicate file. Title this one 'song name- thin & bright vers'. Proceed to make a mix a little outside of your comfort zone as if it were for a client who said they had a weird taste for really thin and bright recordings "(maybe it was based on an underground 80's garage band). Try to do a pleasing example of this decidedly different approach. Bounce it. Take a break, then sit in another listening environment and play the thin and bright version, followed by your regular version. What was gained? Where do you mainly miss the lows? Is it too bright? Are some things actually better, while others were overdone?

This kind of stuff is time consuming, and can sometimes send me into a 'chasing my own tail' kind of trip, but sometimes I realize things about what I'm working with.
Ok, I will try this. Thanks. This sounds like a good idea.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:14 pm

Snarl 12/8 wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 5:20 pm
I gotta say, I'm realizing that gear is a huge part of this. I bought a new mixer and recorder this year that are higher fidelity than anything I've ever used before and my recordings are higher fidelity. Like mind-blowingly higher. You can only do so much with audio that's been put through bad circuitry. I'm sorry, I know this isn't the TapeOp ethos, but it's been true for me.
Ok, fair enough. Thanks. I'm not really in the position of springing for a bunch of new stuff right now, but it's something to work towards.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by Judas Jetski » Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:07 pm

What gear are you recording with? (Hopefully I didn't miss a huge post answering this question before I asked it.)

I've always taken the approach of trying to get things so that when I *do* make mistakes, they're the kind of mistakes people aren't expecting, so they either won't notice them or will think they're intentional choices.

Also, subtractive EQ is your friend in the lower mids, but somebody already said that. I try to EQ things to find the shittiest possible frequency, and then notch that out. Kinda like turning down the "suck" knob in that world-famous Far Side cartoon.

Also also, room treatment makes a HUMONGOUS difference, both while tracking, and while mixing. I'm pretty sure someone already said that too. I switched my mixing environment to a new room with fewer obvious flaws, and ... I hate it, because I was used to the flaws the other room had. But they tell me things sound better now than they ever did before, so maybe there's something worthy about the room.

Also also also, good quality mastering is irreplaceable. But someone already said that too.

Basically, I'm just making a good-faith effort to combat incipient agoraphobia by posting here. But hopefully I've said at least like ONE useful thing.
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by winky dinglehoffer » Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:20 pm

KermitPickle wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:06 pm
On my last mix I was struggling with a dull-sounding lead vocal--I did a lot of EQ cuts on that track but I felt like I struggling to find a good balance between murkiness and harshness.
Dig out the Oktava & give it a whirl on lead vocal. It's likely to give you more brightness than most of the other mics you mentioned. And if you're on a budget, you might as well try to get the most out of all the tools you have at hand.
Last edited by winky dinglehoffer on Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by darjama » Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:38 pm

Maybe try joining us for one of our monthly Reaper mixing contests. You get to work with some professionally recorded tracks, and mix just with reaper's included plugins and jsfx. Compare your mix to others. At the end you can download project files from the other participants and see how yours compare.

https://reamixed.com

Submissions are done for this month, voting for the current round starts on Monday, and the new contest will be up on the 1st.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by numberthirty » Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:42 pm

Judas Jetski wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:07 pm
What gear are you recording with? (Hopefully I didn't miss a huge post answering this question before I asked it.)

...
KermitPickle wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 2:56 pm
...

-My signal chain is all inexpensive stuff...mostly SM57s, EV 635a, an inexpensive ribbon mic, that kind of thing. All into the built-in pre's in my old MOTU. It's not cheap/dire but it's all prosumer-level. I still have a couple of inexpensive condensers I bought years ago (Oktava 319, CAD M179) but I shy away from using them because I never thought they were an obvious improvement on my dynamic mics. Maybe I should revisit this.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by numberthirty » Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:46 pm

winky dinglehoffer wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:20 pm
KermitPickle wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:06 pm
On my last mix I was struggling with a dull-sounding lead vocal--I did a lot of EQ cuts on that track but I felt like I struggling to find a good balance between murkiness and harshness.
Dig out the Oktava & give it a whirl on lead vocal. It's likely to give you more brightness than most of the other mics you mentioned. And if you're on a budget, you might as well try to get the most out of all the tools you have at hand.
In addition to that, you could put the couple of dynamics and the condensers up right next to each other in pairs, and try to see if combinations might work where a lone microphone has not.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by numberthirty » Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:57 pm

One other thing that you could try just to see if it combats whatever "Dull..." could be is to try micing the vocal mid-side just to hear the results.

Seems like you could use the Figure 8 on the 179 and the Shure/EV/Oktava for the "Mid".

https://www.uaudio.com/blog/mid-side-mic-recording/

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by vvv » Sat Oct 17, 2020 11:13 pm

One thing that has helped me over the years is doing and re-doing, which is obvious, but not to be under-estimated. Mix anything and everything, your stuff, others', downloads, and in different ways - bright, rhythm driven, vocal emphasized, etc.

And read. I read here, elsewhere on the net, certainly TapeOp magazine. Equipment reviews at places like SOS often have practice tips, as well. And books. I really learned a lot from books. Mike Senior's are excellent, Mixerman's, The Guerilla book, the various "Handbooks". Older books are cheap on ebay, etc. - you just might have to ignore a few chapters on ADAT or whatever.

And, listen. I mean, put on yer Walkman or yer Discman or yer Ipod/digital player or yer phone, listen to stuff you like and stuff you do and stuff that has something you wanna do and compare and contrast. Listen to AM and FM, to earbuds and monitors and living room and bookshelf stereos and in yer car. Listen to love, but also to analyze. What makes FM sound like FM? Why does an 808 kick on a 80's dance track sound so good there but not work in a alt.country track? Youtube studio vids can be useful to help identify stuff, when you see the mics and their placement.. Look up the Lanois stuff with Black Dub, the Nick Cave studio stuff, the "making of [album]" stuff (the Steely Dan one is pretty good).

Finally, do be sure to consider the music itself, the arrangements. Do ya need 4 electric guitars, or will one acoustic serve better? A loud voc into a Shure dynamic, or an intimate voc into a condensor? A kick above or below the bass? Reverb or delay or none?

Bonus: don't underestimate your gear. That M179 is actually a very usable condensor (I like 'em on toms and even OH's sometimes, also), Bono likes to sing into Beta 58's.

Double-secret probation bonus: FWIW, I pass-filter damn-near everything, but EQ as a last resort. I try to do it with mic placement; with my own stuff I find I sometimes do a little boost or cut on FX'd bass, brighten a lead vocal or guitar - that's about it, other than drums, where on two-mixes I often do a shit-ton. On recent acoustic projects (the "C-19" stuff at the first link below) I have had to do a fair amount of EQ on upright acoustic bass, and sometimes on congas, that I did not record. But as an aesthetic, EQ is something I try to avoid, other than the afore-mentioned pass filters.

Pro-tip: listen to yer audience. When a kid says there's too much distortion on the guitars, when the wife says the vocal is pitchy, when the fellow muso says the arrangement is too busy, at least try it their way. So, try and find some folks what are willing to give respectful critique, and accept it gracefully.
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:31 am

I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it yet but if mixing is your biggest issue there’s a lot to be learned by having someone else mix your tracks. I’ve done it a few times on projects that I’ve felt too close to. It’s a great help to see how other people address issues you know are in the tracks. It also helps being able to a/b between their mix and yours. Most mixers I’ve dealt with have been very forthcoming about their process.

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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:29 am

KermitPickle wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:06 pm
I really should just save up and send it to MoreSpaceEcho to do it properly.
I'd be happy to help! If you'd like, send me a mix or two, I'll check them out and give you some feedback if I hear any problem areas.
Send them over via https://oldcolony.wetransfer.com/

You've gotten a lot of great advice here already. One thing i would add is to really spend some time a/b'ing your mixes with your favorites. I get that doing this is what led you to post initially, and the source of your frustration....but, it's really the most helpful thing you can do, and it doesn't cost any money.

Make sure you compare things relatively level-matched, i.e. turn the mastered tracks down a ton. Don't worry about matching the density or the overall brightness or whatever, listen more for the general frequency balance and instrument levels. I spent a lot of time doing this years ago, and it was really humbling, I got my ass kicked. But it was super helpful, I learned a lot really quickly, and my mixes improved considerably.

Good gear helps, and great tracking/mixing acoustics REALLY helps, but you can't make it rain money and you have to work with what you have. I've worked on A LOT of great sounding records that were made in far from ideal conditions.

KermitPickle
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:49 am

darjama wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:38 pm
Maybe try joining us for one of our monthly Reaper mixing contests. You get to work with some professionally recorded tracks, and mix just with reaper's included plugins and jsfx. Compare your mix to others. At the end you can download project files from the other participants and see how yours compare.

https://reamixed.com

Submissions are done for this month, voting for the current round starts on Monday, and the new contest will be up on the 1st.
I will try this -- seems like a good idea. Thanks for the tip.
numberthirty wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 10:57 pm
One other thing that you could try just to see if it combats whatever "Dull..." could be is to try micing the vocal mid-side just to hear the results.

Seems like you could use the Figure 8 on the 179 and the Shure/EV/Oktava for the "Mid".

https://www.uaudio.com/blog/mid-side-mic-recording/
Interesting -- is the idea to combine a duller-sounding dynamic with the brighter condenser?
Last edited by KermitPickle on Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:19 am, edited 2 times in total.

KermitPickle
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:52 am

Thanks for all the insight. This is helpful.

I've been thinking about tracking/mixing acoustic treatments and, although I understand (and have heard) how much of a difference it makes, I never could get a handle on it in a practical sense. Partially because of $$, partially because I share a very small house with a wife and two kids and everyone's stuff (there's a lot of it) and there just isn't a spare room/space/closet that isn't used for living and/or storage. So there never was a space I could permanently set up for recording/mixing, just temporary spaces. I suppose I really need to look more at temporary things like moveable gobos, stuff like that.

KermitPickle
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Re: Lost in the wilds of lo/mid-fi -- your thoughts please.

Post by KermitPickle » Sun Oct 18, 2020 10:33 am

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 9:29 am
KermitPickle wrote:
Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:06 pm
I really should just save up and send it to MoreSpaceEcho to do it properly.
I'd be happy to help! If you'd like, send me a mix or two, I'll check them out and give you some feedback if I hear any problem areas.
Send them over via https://oldcolony.wetransfer.com/

You've gotten a lot of great advice here already. One thing i would add is to really spend some time a/b'ing your mixes with your favorites. I get that doing this is what led you to post initially, and the source of your frustration....but, it's really the most helpful thing you can do, and it doesn't cost any money.

Make sure you compare things relatively level-matched, i.e. turn the mastered tracks down a ton. Don't worry about matching the density or the overall brightness or whatever, listen more for the general frequency balance and instrument levels. I spent a lot of time doing this years ago, and it was really humbling, I got my ass kicked. But it was super helpful, I learned a lot really quickly, and my mixes improved considerably.

Good gear helps, and great tracking/mixing acoustics REALLY helps, but you can't make it rain money and you have to work with what you have. I've worked on A LOT of great sounding records that were made in far from ideal conditions.
Yeah. Thanks for the offer! I'll take you up on it. As you say, A/B-ing my mixes with other stuff was super frustrating. But you're right, I gotta stick with it.

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