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View Full Version : Mixing & Mastering methods / order of operations?


The Biznut
12-15-2009, 05:30 AM
This thread is the culmination of spending 6 more hours spent choosing my final instrument and attempting to adjust my levels from the ground up on a recent WIP I want to finish.

I thought I was close to completing my Star Fox Corneria theme remix. My composition is solid, I knew I had a few EQ / volume levels to deal with first though. Long story short, there was a loudness war across too many levels, and I wasn't happy with my work, so I decided to reset all my EQ's and volume levels / automations and start from scratch.

So far I am glad I did, but I am finding myself having to make decisions about what the next step should be and I am having a hard time thinking through what the best choice would be. Do I EQ and automate volume for each track at a time, is it better to EQ everything before automating anything? Am I better served to get my levels set first before automating / adding delay's or effects? Is it usually best to mix and EQ percussion first, depending on style?

I know more or less what needs to be done, and how to do it, but I do not quite know when is the best time during production is to do those things. I am interested in hearing how others here go about it. I know its different for everyone, and I would think a producer would always be making tweaks to all aspects of a mix as they notice things to improve, but there is a general process / system in place, right?

In short, do you use an order of operations when it comes to mixing/mastering, and if so, what is it?

Rozovian
12-15-2009, 12:46 PM
I rarely think about how I do it, probably because half the time I have no idea. :D Usually, I just change whatever comes to mind, and then eventually call it almost done, listen, and start the damage control (ie. drop highs and lows, maximize, all that where applicable).

Concerning eq and volume, I usually just cut the lows of the tracks that don't need them, and drop the highs a bit from the tracks that don't need them. Recently started dropping some lows on track that do need the lows, just not as much. I also cut specific shrill frequencies where applicable. Aside from these, ie general eq and notches, I mix with levels. I eq the tracks the way I think they need, and then change the volume for each track to sit right into the mix.

Usually, my leads, bass, snare, and/or hihat is/are too loud. Hence the damage control. :D

Harmony
12-15-2009, 01:10 PM
I approach the mastering process by thinking that if I mix every track perfectly, all I'd have to do at the mastering stage is take out the headroom and gel stuff together with a little compression. Of course it never works out so perfectly, and I end up just like Rozo playing the damage control game by fixing stuff with EQ, and adding harmonics that I think are lacking, and using multiband compressors to tame a wild kick, and re-adjusting the mixing levels, and etc etc etc.

As far as mixing goes, unless it's a very specific effect I'm going for, I generally wait until the very end to automate levels. I like to tweak levels often during a mix and having to move or redraw curves everytime I'm paranoid that something is 0.1 dB too loud would get tedious. Conversely, unless it's a very specific effect, I usually set and forget the EQ on each track right up front. I may tweak it again towards the end of the mixing process, maybe automate a fader or something, but that's about it. Effects like delay and reverb always come before levels for me. Since those effects can affect the output level of the track, it's just easier to keep a handle on things by having them in place before I start messing with the levels.

Of course none of this is really hard and fast, especially for people like most of us who are still growing as musicians and producers, and who haven't really found their specific style/workflow yet.

po!
12-15-2009, 09:16 PM
i almost always do EQ (and compression) as the first thing i ever do to a track. i generally lay down effects in the order that they usually go in the signal chain, ie.

compression -> EQ -> chorus -> reverb

there's a good reason for this order, as it goes from most fundamental alterations (compression) to least fundamental (reverb is just icing on the cake). reverb is always the very last thing i do to the entire mix.. after everything is done i just go track by track and add reverb sends

i like to EQ as early as possible since it makes things easier to listen to, and also so that my EQ settings can evolve over time. every day i listen to the mix i have a fresh set of ears and can tweak the EQ to where eventually it settles into the "proper" EQ. sometimes i do get frustrated over the mix and will redo the EQ of every track from scratch if it sounds totally wrong

Legion303
12-17-2009, 12:48 AM
My method is to get the levels where I want them, apply EQ and compression where needed, and tweak the levels again.

-steve