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Old 07-13-2017, 10:39 AM   #1
Rangler
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Default What was your biggest struggle when you started learning to mix/produce?

I'm still a beginner struggling to make space for everything in the mix. EQ is really difficult for me to grasp. I listen to Nigel Godrich's records trying to figure out how everything is so clear. I just purchased MMultiAnalyser, so maybe that'll help.

I also suck at recording singers. I have a terrible space that resonates when you sing loud. The room actually buzzes and distorts when you belt out a chorus.
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Old 07-13-2017, 02:06 PM   #2
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Treat your room. There are some diy plans all over the net with decent results.

Don't second guess yourself.

As long as you have decent monitors or headphones, what sounds good really is good. If your thinking you can't make enough space in the mix, force it. If forcing the mix into place makes everything sound thin, strip away some parts (assuming your the artist).

Over thinking things can really hault the learning process. You have to really trust your own judgment at this point. Unless of course you have crap monitors or speakers... Then your screwed. I recently got some akg mk2 open back phone's and their proving to be useful.. Quite cheap as well.

Also, plugins literally do not give you better mixes (which is what I always thought). I've heard incredible mixes with stock plugins supplied in reaper so just cut to the chase and just keep mixing with what you got.
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Old 07-13-2017, 02:38 PM   #3
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Getting the lower end right. It seems like every time I would put the CD in the car stereo or something the low end was either way too loud or Way Too Thin. Then I discovered spectral analyzer and reference tracks. Other than that I had a habit of overdoing everything putting compression EQ Reverb on every single thing and squashing the crap out of it I've learned that less is more
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:37 PM   #4
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I listen to Nigel Godrich's records trying to figure out how everything is so clear.
Because he captured it clearly and didn't think this magic was all going to happen later in the mix phase using EQ. I mean that, if you really want to do this well, practice as hard as you can on getting it right at the source regardless of what the source or right is. Then you can work your remaining magic in the mixing phase.

Also a very important point... It isn't just the gear, or the mic placement what have you. It literally is the players, not just their playing ability but there ability to compose parts and choose tones that fit like a glove - contrast that to players who can't do this, everything is just one big repair job.
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:46 PM   #5
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Because he captured it clearly and didn't think this magic was all going to happen later in the mix phase using EQ. I mean that, if you really want to do this well, practice as hard as you can on getting it right at the source regardless of what the source or right is. Then you can work your remaining magic in the mixing phase.

Also a very important point... It isn't just the gear, or the mic placement what have you. It literally is the players, not just their playing ability but there ability to compose parts and choose tones that fit like a glove - contrast that to players who can't do this, everything is just one big repair job.
I'm skeptical of this approach. I've looked at some of his stems and there are some extreme cuts and passes going on.
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:48 PM   #6
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I'm skeptical of this approach. I've looked at some of his stems and there are some extreme cuts and passes going on.
That has nothing to do with capturing something clearly really, but it's fine if you are skeptical. Everybody has to figure this out one way or the other but capturing it as good as it can be will always sound more real than trying to simulate that later and will be far less work to get it sounding as it should.
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by karbomusic View Post
...if you really want to do this well, practice as hard as you can on getting it right at the source regardless of what the source or right is.
That right there was the hardest thing for me. I think at heart we are all gear-heads to one degree or another. You have to abandon that and come to understand that what you are doing when you are mixing is to a large degree making up for failures in the original recording.
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:57 PM   #8
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That right there was the hardest thing for me. I think at heart we are all gear-heads to one degree or another. You have to abandon that and come to understand that what you are doing when you are mixing is to a large degree making up for failures in the original recording.
It is but there are far too many distractions and temptations out there to get this across well. It's the hardest thing to get good at and every single one of us will do everything we can to avoid that salient truth. It's like pulling teeth these days to get anyone to listen to this but to be fair, I didn't listen either as I used to lay awake in bed longing for the days I had EQs on every channel, only to have them and realize, they weren't the magic I thought they were. They were a godsend at improving a problem but they were never as good as not having the problem to begin with - we'll never get it perfect so there will always be eq'ing going on, but that isn't the point.

That is not directed at the OP, it's just a long-standing matter of fact.
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:01 PM   #9
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That is not directed at the OP, it's just a long-standing matter of fact.
There are always overlapping frequencies inherent to relative instruments. Can you really make up for that in the recording process alone without EQ?
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:05 PM   #10
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There are always overlapping frequencies inherent to relative instruments. Can you really make up for that in the recording process alone without EQ?
You can if you really have a clear idea of what you want your song to sound like and if you have a good understanding of what frequency ranges your instruments occupy. There will of course be some overlap though. There's nothing hard and fast (ie. 'without eq') but getting things fairly right at the source will only aid your job.
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:08 PM   #11
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There are always overlapping frequencies inherent to relative instruments. Can you really make up for that in the recording process alone without EQ?
Yea, see the part where I said good musicians take care of this by how they play and compose, instruments they chose, intervals, inversions, the lot of it - and mixers can take care of it in several ways that aren't EQ based, that's another level entirely of being really good which I'm happy to explain sometime. They aren't perfect either, and we don't live in a perfect world, hence the reason I said, there is always some EQ likely going on.

However, not being in a perfect world does not equate to "EQ is how you make mixes sound great and clear", that's cart before horse, that's all I'm trying to say.
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:10 PM   #12
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That right there was the hardest thing for me. I think at heart we are all gear-heads to one degree or another.
Yes.. try to lose the gearhead thing as soon as possible - really, that extends to an ego/crutch thing.. Most tools we have are corrective - fetishizing corrective tools is kind of a bizarre thing when you really think about it.

Probably the most useful tool to really try to master when you're first starting out is high and low pass filters. You can really get the mix together with just volume, panning and high/low pass filtering. This also helps to figure out the frequency ranges - in terms of the mix - of your instruments. You can then use this info to get things right at the source more.
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Old 07-14-2017, 09:49 AM   #13
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Yes.. try to lose the gearhead thing as soon as possible - really, that extends to an ego/crutch thing.. Most tools we have are corrective - fetishizing corrective tools is kind of a bizarre thing when you really think about it.
I'm still waiting for this to come up on Amazon Prime.



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Old 07-14-2017, 10:03 AM   #14
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I'm still a beginner struggling to make space for everything in the mix. EQ is really difficult for me to grasp. I listen to Nigel Godrich's records trying to figure out how everything is so clear. I just purchased MMultiAnalyser, so maybe that'll help.
No, time and experience is what's needed. It's putting in your 10,000 hours like any other skill set.

People think it's the gear that separates professionals from hobbyists. It's not, it's the sheer weight of hours put in that separate them to a large extent. That, and having mentors who can protect you from the oodles of (often well intentioned) misinformation out there.

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I also suck at recording singers. I have a terrible space that resonates when you sing loud. The room actually buzzes and distorts when you belt out a chorus.
I'd say that you won't know if you suck at recording singers until you try it in a nice sounding space
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Old 07-14-2017, 10:59 AM   #15
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My biggest struggle was someone asking a question that I was interested in on a forum and reading through 400 responses of people arguing that their answer was the only one that was right and never really getting an answer to the question originally asked.
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Old 07-14-2017, 11:02 AM   #16
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My biggest struggle was someone asking a question that I was interested in on a forum and reading through 400 responses of people arguing that their answer was the only one that was right and never really getting an answer to the question originally asked.
^^ Don't listen to this guy, my answer is the only one that is right
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Old 07-14-2017, 11:45 AM   #17
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My biggest struggle was someone asking a question that I was interested in on a forum and reading through 400 responses of people arguing that their answer was the only one that was right and never really getting an answer to the question originally asked.
^though I do think it's better to just allow each person to add their suggestions and we can just omit the argument stuff... since the chest bumping is often silly even when guilty as charged, there is something else to be aware of...

It shouldn't be that hard to tell which info makes the most sense. That's something that has existed since the beginning of time... the need to separate wheat from chaff... which cannot be escaped - it really is up to the person learning to figure out what holds water - if they can't do that, that's the first sign that they may not be cut out for whatever it is they are interested in. That's totally why I'm not over hanging out on the Brain Surgery forum.
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Old 07-14-2017, 12:23 PM   #18
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Your whole life people will tell you what you can & can't do. Getting past them is the first step to actually getting things done.
With a slight edit^ = once I got passed that^-the rest just followed.
Self mastery is an art I try to persist in developing,not just musically,but holistically.
Also having a knowing that I am all that is,that ever was,and ever will be-infinite awareness/consciousness --in the physical form.
We are all *<this>*.,and there is no "separation", is quite comforting. =) !

Look at the word 'struggle'- that's just another man made construct and self limiting belief/idea/thought pattern.
Words are just labels.
GLHF!
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Old 07-14-2017, 12:41 PM   #19
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Good question. Here are mine:

1. Trusting that room acoustics and monitoring chain made THAT big of a difference. They do.

2. Taking the time to move the mic at tracking and getting the sound right.
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Old 07-14-2017, 01:05 PM   #20
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2. Taking the time to move the mic at tracking and getting the sound right.
Yea, that's a total PIA especially when a one man show and you can't really use context as your friend. You almost have to screw it up a good number of times until you know what works.
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Old 07-14-2017, 01:28 PM   #21
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Yeah, that's true. And when you learn that 1 inch of mic movement is worth so much, it's really a game changer. Learning that the extra few minutes is worth it... that's especially hard when someone has paid for a whole day of session and it looks like you're fiddling with a mic too long. Sometimes those differences are not exactly discernible for others. I find it helpful to have those conversations in pre-production.


Here's another for the list:
3. Taking breaks really is important.
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Old 07-14-2017, 08:09 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rangler View Post
I'm still a beginner struggling to make space for everything in the mix. EQ is really difficult for me to grasp. I listen to Nigel Godrich's records trying to figure out how everything is so clear. I just purchased MMultiAnalyser, so maybe that'll help.

I also suck at recording singers. I have a terrible space that resonates when you sing loud. The room actually buzzes and distorts when you belt out a chorus.
One of the tough things I found when starting, is figuring out what needs to be EQed. Boxiness, rumble, fizz, etc. Does'nt make much sense when starting. Eventually you just know where it is and throw an EQ right on the spot without thinking. The ears eventually does the job instead of the learned 'principles'.
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Old 07-14-2017, 08:22 PM   #23
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^though I do think it's better to just allow each person to add their suggestions and we can just omit the argument stuff... since the chest bumping is often silly even when guilty as charged, there is something else to be aware of...

It shouldn't be that hard to tell which info makes the most sense. That's something that has existed since the beginning of time... the need to separate wheat from chaff... which cannot be escaped - it really is up to the person learning to figure out what holds water - if they can't do that, that's the first sign that they may not be cut out for whatever it is they are interested in. That's totally why I'm not over hanging out on the Brain Surgery forum.
Well, now this is just so much BS and you should be ashamed of yourself for even posting something so absurd!

You are right, of course. It took me a while to figure out that I just needed to "separate the wheat from the chaff" instead of banging my head trying to figure out which person's argument was most likely to be right.
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Old 07-15-2017, 12:10 PM   #24
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Doing it over and over and over again, then listening back to stuff done the week/month/year before and smacking my head at the rubbish I'd turned out. Then working out WHY. Gradually, the smacking gets less and the stuff gets more listenable - and generally a lot better than most of the demos you hear.

Or there's the purist 'Hi-Fi' (in the original sense) approach, which is that the engineer's job is to faithfully reproduce whatever happened in the room. In which case overlapping frequencies are going to happen.

I don't know about the 'trying to make your kitchen sound like Abbey Road Studio 2' approach.
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Old 07-15-2017, 03:50 PM   #25
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The fact that I do orchestral music. Orchestrating is difficult anyway. There's a tendency to overdo it, which just produces mud. Clarity and transparency are what is called for. Mozart really excelled at this (along with everything else). So, add to that the difficulty of mixing in general, and you have a recipe for countless hours of drudge work, not to mention very tired ears.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:24 PM   #26
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For me I think it was getting used to whatever monitors I was using and getting my mixes to transfer well. I cannot count how many times I thought I nailed it only to not like the way a mix sounded on another playback device. I also had a hard time accepting the fact that after working on a mix for a certain number of hours I could no longer trust my ears. I was just burned out and needed a break. Could be as little as 15 minutes or as much as a few days.
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:50 PM   #27
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Default Without the right amount of breaks and reference

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Originally Posted by jpanderson80 View Post
Yeah, that's true. And when you learn that 1 inch of mic movement is worth so much, it's really a game changer. Learning that the extra few minutes is worth it... that's especially hard when someone has paid for a whole day of session and it looks like you're fiddling with a mic too long. Sometimes those differences are not exactly discernible for others. I find it helpful to have those conversations in pre-production.


Here's another for the list:
3. Taking breaks really is important.
1) In my early attempts of mixing I overdid some stuff, i.e. compression, just to hear the effect. Thatīs where your relationship between you and your monitoring comes into play.
In mixing you are permanently evaluating components that are interweaved with each other. So one track is always in relation to all the others.

2) I try to feel what function an element has in arrangement. Sometimes all the hard work at the sounddesign phase is superfluous if it just clutters the frequency spectrum for more important stuff. Get rid of it and donīt have regrets. Millions of other ways are at your disposal in case you need some sounds to fill up the arrangement.

3) In my early days I did binge-mixing just to tell someone that I sat 12 hours straight on a mix just to show my work ethic. It wasnīt with an arrogant attitude but to "make sure" that my business partners (aka bands and singers) saw that I put quite some effort into their songs. Technically I didnīt lie, but it didnīt help the end result either. If it can keep up with other songs in that genre then noone will ask how long you sat there to make it sound right in one session.
Nowadays I mix for an hour and take a break. I try to establish a sound for one instrument group. If Iīve lost the "overall vision" of a track I take a break. This can happen after 10 minutes. I donīt force it and in most of the cases it pays off big time.

4) In my early days I started with the drums and the kick drum at the very first.
Nowadays I start with the vocals, because people can recognize changes there the most. If the vocals sound nice in the beginning everything else will follow them. Most of the time they have the most complex harmonic structure and modulation in one track. If you have backings then thereīs even more to consider. Compared to this drums are easy because usually thereīs one clear purpose for one instrument. A hihat canīt be a substitute for a kick or snare.
I picked the vocals for this example if you have an instrument soloist than you can start with this.

Usually I do the basses at the last stage. But I do dīnīb type stuff so thereīs a lot of modulation going on. In a rock context I focus a lot on the kick - bass guitar relationship. Maybe establish this at first before I proceed with the snare.

I donīt have rules and nowadays I only start mixing when I have a clear vision of the sound in my head. See 3)
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:54 PM   #28
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Mixing:
1. Acoustics: test and treat your monitoring environment as much as possible
2. Use your ears only (close your eyes, compare using good reference material)
3. Test on multiple systems/scenarios, taking notes, tweak and try multiple mixes

Producing:
1. all the same things as mixing
2. Experiment with mic placement and compare using ears only
3. Also try sitting back and only call the shots. let someone else fiddle with knobs and other technical stuff. Some of us can get into details so much that hearing the whole and being objective is almost impossible.
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Old 07-16-2017, 11:51 PM   #29
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All true all true and I want to add a single plugin to all this wisdom:
AB-LM
As a beginner you need to know how eq/compression/etc affesct your sound taking volume changes out of the equation. There's actually a JS version of this plug in too, a bit more clunky but free.
Then mcompare from melda is the perfect tool for referencing at equal volume.
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Old 07-17-2017, 05:37 AM   #30
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Translating terms like "warmth", "crisp", etc., into something sensible from an engineering perspective.
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Old 07-17-2017, 08:36 AM   #31
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I think learning to listen to everything is the most difficult part, and I've been doing it for quite a while.

Get things right at the recording stage for sure helps. The guys in the online videos aren't really showing you the hard parts, they show you good sounding stuff from the start. Good tracks are going to save you a lot of headaches.

I just found out that my guitar friend was setting his EQ to try to "help" me mix. He was overdoing the highs and lows on the guitar to leave "space in the middle" for keys, etc. It put the highs and lows out of phase, added a lot of problem tones, and left out the meaty middle we expect from a guitar. By itself it sounded okay, a little boomy, but trying to mix it was hellish, and impossible to fill some of the midrange. His acoustics sounded great, since they couldn't be manipulated.

As for your singing space,you can try one of those mic mount isolation things (~$100), they are supposed to work pretty well, but will give you a pretty dry vocal. Packing blankets can also deaden a space, but move them away from the walls for maximum effect (against the wall, they only work once, and partially. With even a couple inches of space, the blanket actually works twice). Don't forget the ceiling, it may actually be the closest surface to your mic! Best of luck, and keep trying, it's tough but satisfying!
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Old 07-17-2017, 10:03 AM   #32
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As for the problems recording vocals - short of treating the room - try to use a dynamic mic instead of a condenser.

Of my own experiences starting out:
I was like a mad chef adding full containers of spice to a dish. Whatever my latest gadgets or newly learned processes were, I applied it full force to almost everything. Took me a while to get more selective and discriminate in adding effects. Now some of my dishes are almost eatable. That also applied to editing.

I would record 7 takes of guitars fills, and instead of just keeping the stuff that improved the overall mix, I tried to shoehorn in as many decent riffs as I could find. It appeared to sound good at the time, but listening back just a few weeks later, it was obvious that I had created a hot mess.
Now I subscribe to the mantra: Just because it's recorded, doesn't mean it belongs in the song. I knew that to begin with as it is in every bloody article I have ever read, but still had to experience what fitting in too many ingredients sounds like. I probably still leave too much stuff in, but at least now I have a reason, not a rationale, for keeping stuff.
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Old 07-17-2017, 11:02 AM   #33
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Mastering and consumer delivery formats were mighty confusing for a while there!

There was (and still is sometimes) a lot of chasing after framing the 'meat' of the mix into the release format at the expense of some of the more nuanced fidelity elements. (And then the examples where that comment is being very generous!)

So you start trying to reference some of these recordings with curious tubby/compressed elements and it's easy to get confused! It takes a while and a lot of listening and experience to identify intentional elements vs. compromises in some of those scenarios.

It wasn't until recent times where you could have the benefit of hindsight with any of this either. Today you can take an older recording and compare a first release vinyl with 2nd/3rd/etc pressings and then with 2 or 3 rounds of 16 bit CD masters and then finally the flat transfer of the master mix to 24 bit 96k from a digital download or bluray disc. This is a new opportunity.

And the big reveal in all this is it's always been more of a struggle with quality control than format quality.


Listening to squished masters prepared for portable listening devices and then trying to take a seat behind the mixing board is not intuitive! It would be like trying to get into photo restoration armed with the post office copy machine.
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Old 07-17-2017, 11:35 AM   #34
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Considering that I first started by bouncing from one consumer cassette deck to another, and the graduated to a cheap cassette 4-track and an Alesis mixer that was like a waterfall, my biggest struggle to begin with was noise, noise, and more noise.

I don't want to sound too arrogant, but I can't say that I ever really felt like I was "struggling" with anything else. Turn the knobs til it sounds good. If that don't work, try other knobs.
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Old 07-17-2017, 12:46 PM   #35
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Patience. Somehow had no idea it would take years to develop those skills...
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:01 PM   #36
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Patience. Somehow had no idea it would take years to develop those skills...
Amen!
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:36 PM   #37
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Patience. Somehow had no idea it would take years to develop those skills...
Yeah, and along with that to have the desire and determination to do it right.
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Old 07-17-2017, 02:04 PM   #38
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I want to add a single plugin to all this wisdom:
AB-LM
although I see some benefits to using a plugin like this, what's wrong with simply muting/un-muting a plugin?
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Old 07-17-2017, 03:30 PM   #39
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Some things I learned...

1. Listen properly!
2. A good song matters more then the preamp you used
3. A good arrangement matters more than the preamp you used
4. Listen to the whole mix and adjust, not individual tracks
5. Don't do anything "because you always do", e.g, hi passing
6. A bit of distortion especially on bass is good
7. Make the vocal sound great, balance up the drums and everything else has to fit around that
8. Use Solo as little as possible. No one will listen to a soloed kick drum.
9. Compression is really useful but make sure you understand it and do lots of experiments
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:36 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
Considering that I first started by bouncing from one consumer cassette deck to another, and the graduated to a cheap cassette 4-track and an Alesis mixer that was like a waterfall, my biggest struggle to begin with was noise, noise, and more noise.

I don't want to sound too arrogant, but I can't say that I ever really felt like I was "struggling" with anything else. Turn the knobs til it sounds good. If that don't work, try other knobs.
Ha ha, I think you're basically talking about the beginning of the bedroom studio, aren't you ashcat?
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