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I am SO TIRED of my mixes not sounding clean!


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I've made a thread about this before but I don't care. I'm just to the point of punching something because I LIKE my arrangements, my choice of samples, and so on, but it's all ruined because everything sounds compressed and occupies the same space. I try doubling and panning, modest EQ, extreme EQ, etc. etc. etc. and nothing! NOTHING!

Maybe someone could guide me through mastering and EQ through Skype? I'll pay you, I don't care. I don't want to be a professional, I don't ever expect to make it on OCR, but I just can't stand knowing zircon uses FL studio too and has the most crisp sounding samples I've ever heard. Do you think it could be my VSTs? Here's a sample.. at the beginning of the song it sounds fairly clean, right? Then as I add pads it gets muddy and the WAHHH pattern could also have so much more impact. These are all Nexus add-ons I think.

http://tindeck.com/listen/howj

And here's a meatboy-inspired one that came out sounding quite a bit more clean. What did I do differently? Absolutely nothing.

http://tindeck.com/listen/ekkh

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Some quick thoughts while a have a minute:

-You've got lots of reverb on lots of different instruments. That's certainly going to fill things up quickly.

-The songs sound like they're mixed pretty "hot". No reason you couldn't pull back the levels a bit and still get an acceptable output volume level IMO

-it sounds like you're trying to have ALL of the elements in the song come out loudly. Consider working on your balance so that supporting parts sit further back than leads, drums punch through appropirately, etc.

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Some quick thoughts while a have a minute:

-You've got lots of reverb on lots of different instruments. That's certainly going to fill things up quickly.

-The songs sound like they're mixed pretty "hot". No reason you couldn't pull back the levels a bit and still get an acceptable output volume level IMO

-it sounds like you're trying to have ALL of the elements in the song come out loudly. Consider working on your balance so that supporting parts sit further back than leads, drums punch through appropirately, etc.

I was going to see if someone brought up my reverb addiction.

Yeah, I totally see what you mean though. I haven't been able to balance out the sounds because I do push everything loud but then when I push it back it seems to me like no one can ear it now. Maybe I want all the sounds to be consciously heard when some need to be "there but you're not thinking about it."

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I agree with Nutritious. I used to have the same problem--actually, I still do sometime--I added too much reverb and too many instruments, and I wanted all of them to play the main role in the song. Sometimes you just have to face the fact that some instruments have to take a back seat (sometimes to the point of being almost inaudible).

Plus, it helps if you keep switching them - for example, one of them plays the melody for a few bars, then another one takes its place and so forth. That way you can still use a variety of different sounds AND make sure the song doesn't sound overcrowded.

And don't be so pessimistic about your work! All it takes is some practice, so keep doing stuff and you'll see that you'll learn something new with every track you make.

Sorry I can't be of more help. I too am an amateur when it comes to equalizing and mastering. =D

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I am unable to listen to the songs at the moment but one thing to keep in mind is that instrument selection is a very important part of mixing/mastering. It's not just about the effects/EQ/compression.

So even if the "arrangement is perfect", maybe it isn't if you have two instruments that conflict for the same frequency space.

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What do you do when you eq? Having an eq doesn't make anything better, you gotta use it right. :P

Also, not only do you need to give each track its own space, you also need the right overall frequency balance. Have you compared your mixes closely to well-mixed ones to hear if your overall frequency balance is off?

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We need some kind of a thread where you put up a song that's finished in terms of composition but completely untouched in terms of mixing, and then someone else takes the file and mixes it, then gives it back so the first person can take it apart to see how it ticks.

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We need some kind of a thread where you put up a song that's finished in terms of composition but completely untouched in terms of mixing, and then someone else takes the file and mixes it, then gives it back so the first person can take it apart to see how it ticks.

It isn't in a thread specifically for general mix help, but I did take one of GarretGraves's tracks and mix it with commentary, which is I think the sort of thing you're interested in seeing. Read the entire thread if you're interested in the context.

There's also this thread, which never really saw much action.

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We need some kind of a thread where you put up a song that's finished in terms of composition but completely untouched in terms of mixing, and then someone else takes the file and mixes it, then gives it back so the first person can take it apart to see how it ticks.

THIS

What do you do when you eq? Having an eq doesn't make anything better, you gotta use it right. :P

Whaddya mean? I just pull on the circle thingies and sounds change and bam, I'm a maser EQsmith.

I use Parametric EQ2.

So pulling a good clean song into FL and looking at it through the Parametric EQ would... my god. This will work.

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As for reverb, I know zircon keeps it 100% dry with the reverb as well, so you still get the crispy clean original sound, then also some reverb. It's wise in most cases to do that.

Muddyness can be caused by so many different things. If you're not eq'ing your instruments, that'd be a good place to start. Pads are always a bit tricky because they're usually pretty hoggish when it comes to the frequency spectrum. It does sound like you're trying to make every little detail of every instrument be at the front of the mix, and that's just not possible. Here's what I'd recommend and how I do my leveling:

- Mute all tracks except the drums. This includes all drums along with any loops or percussion you have. Mix them together so that the kick and snare are at the front, any toms should be right behind them, and cymbals and hats should be even further behind them. Mix in any loops you have going so that they're complementing the drums, not fighting for the spotlight.

- If you have vocals, unmute the main vocal track and mix it so it's right in front of the kick and snare.

- Add the bass guitar/pad/synth/whatever tracks to the mix now. They should be comparable to the kick drum and snare. If it's fighting with the kick, it's time to break out the EQ and give them their own spots. If you're doing it right, the bass hits with the kick and complements it. This makes eq'ing a lot easier, because the bass gives it that big bottom and the kick gives it that pop.

- Un-mute the lead tracks, one by one. They should usually be right with the bass as far as volume. You can pan them if there are multiple leads at the same time.

- One by one, un-mute the backing tracks. Anything that isn't a drum, bass, vocal or lead is a backing track and belongs in the back. They should never be fighting with any of the tracks you already have going, ever. You want to hear them, but when everyone's a star, nobody is a star. Let your main tracks be your stars, and make the backing tracks the sky.

- If you have backing vocals, add them to the mix last. They shouldn't fight with the lead vocal, but should be above the backing tracks.

Backing tracks should all have a high-pass eq filter on them too, in case you weren't doing that before.

Unless you're going for an odd effect, reverb should always be mixed with 100% of the dry sound.

There's no quick fix to learning to mix your song, and no two songs will ever be exactly the same. Keep practicing and never stop learning - that's how people like zircon make amazing sounding mixes with FL Studio. That's not to say that FL Studio is a bad program, but zircon knows it like the back of his hand. Why? Because he's practiced, and practiced, and keeps learning and trying new things.

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The mud is from having too much stuff with too much verb across too many frequencies.

Number one, gently place your instruments in an individual EQ spectrum (not harsh).

Number two, apply EQ to your reverb signal separately. Some verb plugins allow you to shape the EQ response of the verb, if you have this option, again, focus the verb--that means cutting away a lot of the low-end.

You just need to focus stuff.

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As D&d already said, you should eq to give each track its own place in the mix. Don't use it to indiscriminately add lows to the bass or highs to the lead, each instrument has its own frequency balance which you have to take into account and adjust accordingly.

Then you should work on finalizing your mixes better (I won't use the word mastering, because IT'S NOT THE SAME THING). You had some noticeable compression problems in one of the mix examples you posted. That's not good. On the flip side, louder is more clear, so learn to get your volume up without sacrificing quality. There's a wide range of tools - free ones, if you don't have similar ones in FL already - that you could use. Multiband compressors, stereo width tools, exciters, maximizers etc, to be used in conjunction with regular tools such as eq and limiter.

Find what you need for the track you're working on, figure out what you need to do with it, then do it. Going blindly into a mix and just adding effects to try to fix something isn't gonna improve your mixing - it'll just make any further mixing more difficult. Not every track will need a dozen effects to sound good, you should be able to put together a decent mix with just a regular reverb, compressor (and limiter) and eq.

Blah blah blah. :P Go read stuff on the internet about how to eq. Then practice.

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It isn't in a thread specifically for general mix help, but I did take one of GarretGraves's tracks and mix it with commentary, which is I think the sort of thing you're interested in seeing. Read the entire thread if you're interested in the context.

There's also this thread, which never really saw much action.

Moseph, I STILL can't thank you enough for that! I treat your post in that thread as my mixing bible. :) Since you've shown me that, I've managed to get my volume level up to par with well-mixed tracks!

There's no quick fix to learning to mix your song, and no two songs will ever be exactly the same.

Mixing-wise, I figure that depends.

I'm not sure about electronic music, but as a prog rock kinda guy I've found that I like to keep my drums, bass or my guitar consistent sounding from one song to another if I'm working on an album (hopefully soon. I think I have it in me to do so :) )

Let's say I've mixed my drums to the point where I'm happy with them. EQ On the guitars and bass are also highly ideal. I went through SO MUCH TEDIOUS AND HEAD-POUNDING-HAIR-PULLING WORK to get to this point. I don't want to have to to it again. So what should I do? SAVE A TEMPLATE! Now every time you want to record those instruments to tape, you'll never have to mix them again so as long as you're happy with that setup! Or you can use it as a starting point and then build from there with a lot less work.

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Other than going a little overboard with the reverb, you tend to have several instruments sitting in the same frequency location. I like to use high pass / low pass filters on individual tracks to first sculpt out where each instruments sits into the mix. You wouldn't believe how much doing just that will help. Also, a lot of muddiness happens in the area of 100hz-500hz. I would try experimenting with cutting things in those frequencies. You also have to be careful of anything 40hz and below. I'll often cut those frequencies out on things like kicks and bass if I feel like they're overpowering other things.

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Mixing-wise, I figure that depends.

I'm not sure about electronic music, but as a prog rock kinda guy I've found that I like to keep my drums, bass or my guitar consistent sounding from one song to another if I'm working on an album (hopefully soon. I think I have it in me to do so :) )

Let's say I've mixed my drums to the point where I'm happy with them. EQ On the guitars and bass are also highly ideal. I went through SO MUCH TEDIOUS AND HEAD-POUNDING-HAIR-PULLING WORK to get to this point. I don't want to have to to it again. So what should I do? SAVE A TEMPLATE! Now every time you want to record those instruments to tape, you'll never have to mix them again so as long as you're happy with that setup! Or you can use it as a starting point and then build from there with a lot less work.

There's nothing wrong with saving templates, but templates should never be something you just load up and leave alone.

Yes, you could and should save a template with basic configurations as it's a great way to get all the stuff you know you're going to do in every song out of the way quickly and easily. Things like high-pass filters on tracks, bus sends, subgroups, etc - those are all things you can save and use on every song.

There are so many different variables from song to song that can change the requirements of eq parameters, compression levels, volume levels, reverb settings, etc. that it's impossible to have a stock setup that fits every song you'll ever record in the future. Different key signatures will ask for different eq parameters, different song structures could different compression levels. I could go on and on, and any professional sound engineer would tell you the same thing - no two songs ask for the same settings, regardless of similarities in genre.

There are guidelines, and those can be preset by a template. The rest is listening to the song and making the appropriate adjustments.

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Use WAVECANDY. Wave Candy is your best friend for mixing. It shows you where everything is on the spectrum. You can easily see where the conflict is in the song that's causing clipping/over compression.

On wavecandy click the spectrum tab (near the bottom). Turn scale all the way up on db range all the way down. Also make the window WAY bigger (to where it's taking up like half your screen). This will allow you to see everything better. Wave candy is best used on the master channel on the mixer, at the very bottom (after all the other mastering crud). When you can see everything on wave candy it makes EQ'ing much, much easier. Try to find gaps in frequencies and put instruments into those gaps to fill up the space. If you've got really huge gaps in certain places it's probably due to an arrangement problem, and eq'ing everything to death probably won't solve the problem.

Also, make sure you turn off FL Limiter on the master channel while mixing. FL Limiter has horrible default settings and will make things sound over-compressed. You can always add a master compressor to the mix later after it's mixed properly.

Using stereo enhancer and turning it all the way to minus (mono) will allow you to hear conflict better and see issues better on wave candy. Of course it's easy to turn it off to hear your panning effects and what not after the mix sounds the way you like. If you pan simply to move things out of the way while mixing it makes it really hard to make a clean mix and hear where the conflict is.

As far as reverb muddying up your mix, you're probably not using reverb right. Watch the decay, highs and lows on it. Short, well eq'd reverb can make things sound big without muddying up your mix.

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Also, make sure you turn off FL Limiter on the master channel while mixing. FL Limiter has horrible default settings and will make things sound over-compressed. You can always add a master compressor to the mix later after it's mixed properly.

Or you can just not have everything go over 0 db, since that's when Limiter kicks in. :P It only sounds as overcompressed as it is too loud. before going to the master. A rule of thumb I follow is make things rarely EVER meet the ceiling. I get as close as I can, but I try not to meet it.

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Or you can just not have everything go over 0 db, since that's when Limiter kicks in. :P It only sounds as overcompressed as it is too loud. before going to the master. A rule of thumb I follow is make things rarely EVER meet the ceiling. I get as close as I can, but I try not to meet it.

No, not really. The default settings on the limiter add 5 to 6 decibels on the track, so a signal mixed under 0 db may sound over-compressed with the limiter on (with default settings).

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Or you can just not have everything go over 0 db, since that's when Limiter kicks in. :P It only sounds as overcompressed as it is too loud. before going to the master. A rule of thumb I follow is make things rarely EVER meet the ceiling. I get as close as I can, but I try not to meet it.

Really? Even if you set the ceiling to -.03 or so and try not to meet that? As someone who specializes in rock and metal, I push HARD against that ceiling and adjust to where it doesn't sound too compressed.

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Really? Even if you set the ceiling to -.03 or so and try not to meet that? As someone who specializes in rock and metal, I push HARD against that ceiling and adjust to where it doesn't sound too compressed.

I've said in other forums that I only use the limiter visualization as a good representation of my real volume output, and being able to compare the peaks of now and, say, five seconds/bars ago. There fore I try not to reach the ceiling when I view the overall volume, but sometimes I go a teeny bit over just for some track adhesion.

Also, yes, I am aware there are volume gauges. They are not precise enough for me.:P

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