Thursday, November 26, 2015

10 Tips and Tricks To Make Your Mix Shine!

Hello again, and welcome back to Nall In The Mix. On this Thanksgiving Day, I’d like to take a few minutes and discuss making a decent mix better. Sometimes you finish a mix and you think, “This is ok, but I know I can do better.” Well, here at LIRCo and The Lexington School For Recording Arts, part of my job is to help students do this very thing; make their mixes better. Some are students are in the digital classes using Pro Tools, and some are in the beginning analog portion of the school. The 10 tips and tricks I am going to run thru today are much easier to do in the digital world, but can still be done if you haven’t made the jump yet, it just might take a little more thought and work to get it right.

I hope after reading this you will have gained a few ideas to make your mixes jump from the speakers and come alive for your listeners. Feel free to ask me your questions and I will try to respond as quickly as I can.

1. Splitting your guitar signal and using amplifier simulator plug-ins.
The amplifier simulator is a great tool for the mixing engineer. You are able to take a clean signal (guitar, bass, vocal, whatever!) and run it into a virtual guitar or bass amp. This is great if the recorded sound just doesn’t have the power or twang that is called for in the song. This is achieved by splitting the signal with a direct box before recording and sending the signal to the players amp as well as a clean track directly to the recorder to be manipulated later during the mixdown.

2. Delay the guitar signal to create an illusion of stereo.
A band always sounds bigger when there are at least 2 guitars playing the rhythm. If the band only has one guitarist, you can use a very short delay (usually around 28ms), that when panned opposite of the original signal, emulates the effect of doubled guitars.

3. Replacing drum parts with sampled hits.
This is a common occurrence in the mixing process. By putting in either recorded samples of the actual drums or by using sounds from a sample library, the mixer is able to make the drums sound uniform and it helps tighten the overall drum sound on the record. It can be used as a total replacement, or just an addition to the original drum sound, depending on the situation.

4. Reversing cymbals, snares and reverbs for effect.
The act of reversing cymbals, snares and reverbs mentally sucks the listener in to the coming section and is a nice way to come back in to the song after a pause in the action.

5. Using a flanger on the cymbals for effect.
This is a very subtle effect and should be used as such. Usually this goes well at a pause in the song.

6. Putting effects across and entire section/entire mix for emphasis.
Putting a flanger, delay or other modulating effect across the entire mix for a few measures sometimes gives the song that little spark it needs to put it over the top. A good example of this in action is “Life In The Fast Lane” by the Eagles.

7. Making an instrument or vocal have the “small speaker” or “telephone” effect.
This is always a cool trick to know and when used correctly can really make a track stand out and create a different mood within the song. Usually this is done with High Pass and Low Pass EQ filters, but there are some great plug-ins out there hat do the job too.

8. Fitting the right reverb to the song.
Big reverbs sound great, but sometimes bigger isn’t better. Listening to the song as a whole before mixing will give you a better idea of the overall vibe of the track and should help in your choice of effects that fit the song.

9. Making vocals line up together using Time Compression/Expansion.
You can’t always count on all the singers in the band to be dead on each other’s vocal timing and phrasing. Using this editing tool allows the engineer to align all these parts without have to delete syllables or words to make the parts fit together. It is also very good for tightening up multiple rhythm guitars or extending “power chords” for a few beats longer to make the section sound smoother. Just be careful and don’t expand or compress the waveform too much as this can cause an audible “warble” in the sound.

10. Multiple miking of snares/acoustic guitars/amps and pianos.
When you record an instrument using two or more microphones, you have the ability to combine the two for a bigger, multi-tambered sound. While this can really help the overall sound of the instrument, you must always be aware of phasing problems between the multiple microphones and take the necessary steps to correct these problems or your signal will be small and thin if not disappear completely when the song is heard in mono.

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget that you are welcome to stop by and tour our facilities anytime. Just give us a call at 859-335-8440 (if you're local) or TOLL FREE at 877-335-8440 to set it up, so we can give you the ultimate LIRCo experience. See ya next time!!!

Steve Nall
Head Engineer, LIRS