Creating Density in a Mix

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Post by foley » Wed Jul 19, 2006 4:34 pm

keep it simple, but keep variety happening - subtle changes in the levels or even the eqing during mixdown can bring things to the front or back.

i try to give each instrument it's own space in the mix - frequency range and pan placement. this is tedious stuff with large numbers of tracks, so it is better to keep it simple.

one thing i have noticed recently is that some bands tend to play on top of each other. an acoustic guitar and a piano both playing the songs rhythm with little variety between the two. they are just eating up each other's frequencies, but that becomes the whole "I need to talk to this piano player" thing, which I hate.

good question - keep the numbers of tracks small, use as few fx as possible, and eq to carve out frequency space for each instrument. good stuff

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Post by cgarges » Wed Jul 19, 2006 8:18 pm

Here are a few things I do to create density:

Stereo mic or multiple-mic a source. This creates a sense of depth and space that's entirely different from creating false stereo out of a mono track.

Use (mostly subtractive) EQ, subtle compression, and/or different types of distortion to reduce transient response of individual tracks. I know it sounds silly and maybe counterintuitive, but that's part of why tape does what it does.

Use effects subtly to create depth and density. Very small amounts of reverb and delay, even if it's nearly impossible to hear, can help fill out the spectrum. Andy Wallace is amazing at this sort of thing.

Hope these help.

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Post by Gulmyros » Thu Jul 20, 2006 1:41 pm

Couple more options.

Copy your track and compress the copy really hard. Flatten it good but try not to over-squash and mangle the tone you like. In the mix, use the original track as your main instrument. Then, all super-sneaky-like, pull up the compressed copy. You can get a little more foundation out of it without removing the dynamic range of the original. We've done this with bass, some rhythm guitars, and some drums on occasion as well. Experiment and see what happens.

Another trick I learned recently is to send a mono track to a stereo effect (box or plugin) with an aux send. Chorus is good, as are some stereo delays (you could use reverb, but it could get messy if you're using plugins). Bring the 2 channels of the effect return in and pan both to the same place as your original track, then "spread" them to the left and right just a little bit. Then, using your super-sneaky technique, gently pull up the fader(s) on the effect until the instrument begins to "widen." Be subtle, and you should get decent results. Our rule is: If you can tell it's got chorus on it, the effect's too high in the mix.

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Post by apropos of nothing » Thu Jul 20, 2006 2:19 pm

My feeling on the best way to make any track have more x is to have -x precede or follow it.

In other words, if you want to make a track feel super-dense, have a few measures where its NOT super-dense, and then bring everything in. The mind will fill in any missing density, freeing up the time you would have otherwise spent triple-tracking and cussing cuz the performance isn't spot-on. .

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Post by bannerj » Thu Jul 20, 2006 3:28 pm

we are all assuming that you are already tracking said instrument with a signal chain mic. preamp...etc...that favors the frequency range that that instrument resonates at. And we are also assuming that your miking technique favors the frequency range of that instrument as well. Lots of times my poor technique and wrong selection of microphones can cause a build up of the wrong frequencies (usually mids) that then make the instrument sound less full. If you have thought through all these basic things...then doubling or compression or reverb or whatever will also be interesting depending on the song.

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