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Mixdown tips from Anderson T

For all Hardstyle tutorials regarding DJ'ing and Producing
  

Postby andytf » 09 Dec 2010, 18:21

Hey everyone.

To who doesn't know me, I'm Anderson Tomaz, also known as Anderson T. I'm a hardstyle DJ and Producer, also, I work as mixdown and mastering engineer. Currently I'm signed to Hard Music Records.

Since I'm the lead engineer from Hard Music Records, I've realized that most of the demos that comes to me are even quite good in the production, but the mixdown, mostly range from bad to terrible.

Since mixdown engineers are quite expensive for all hardstyle labels on scene today (even the biggest ones), the labels prefer to receive audio material that already sound good, without nobody else's touching it. So, I'll write here some quick mixdown that can really improove the overall quality of your track, after you already worked on the creative process of production:

Zero Point: Organize yourself

No matter what you do, if you won't organize your mixer with Busses, Sub-Busses and Channels, write each name on it, like "Qlimax Lead" and "Lead Bus", "Snares" and "Percurssion Bus", stuff like that, you won't be able to find yourself in your own mixer, and the result of this: Bad ass mixing.

First of all: Stereo field

Work on the stereo field of all channels, all instruments, everything. And "working on stereo field" is not about apply pan to an mono or stereo audio signal. Is beyond that, is working the spacial image of each instrument on the track. There is a lot of plugins to help you to do that, like Flux Stereo Tool (Freeware), some good goniometer and other great stereo tools, such as PSP Stereo Pack ( I really love this one, by the way ) and Algorithmix K-Stereo ( Expensive, but the best ).

Second Point: Equalize All

Just equalize everything. Although many people think that mixdown equalize is an complex process, in fact, it isn't. Each track, channel or instrument has it's "good sounding spot". If isn't sounding good, is not in the "good sounding spot", simple like that. An useful tip on this point is to never trust presets. Start to equalize each channel individually from zero, try to remove unwanted noises with the equalizers, try to improove the "hot sound" of each instrument with them, and get rid of the idea that "frequencies conflict in the mix". Frequencies do not conflict on a good levelled mix if there's room for it, they will conflict if somebody really dumb overlimit it's tracks, clip them to square waves, etc.

Also, after you already worked on the stereo field of the channel, you can even improove the stereo field and adjust each frequency panning with Mid/Side or L/R Equalizers, this is very useful to highlight stereo sound from kickdrums, leads, etc.

To say "what's the best VST equalizer ?" is hitting an wall: Equalizes are quinda complex, each one has it's unique curves and filters, so basically, each one can be used in a spot for it, the tip is to try and try untill you find something you like it. Some good equalizers: Waves Q-10, Cockos ReaEQ (Free), Waves SSL E-Channel, Softube Trident A-Range, Voxengo HarmoniEQ... ... ...

Third: Dynamics

Well, this part is complex, somehow, simple, and exciting. To talk about it, let's talk about Dynamic Range first.

What is the Dynamic Range ? - Well, hear for yourself: Try to download some old Beatles song and hear the snares, drums, vocals, little percurssion instruments... pay real attention on every single instrument. You will notice that every little instrument is very audible, even being an stuff recorded in 60's and without most of technology that we have today. This what you are hearing, my friend, is an wide dynamic range.

Now, listen Technoboy - Ti Sento ( Great track, by the way ). Put it on a lower volume and try to hear some snare, hihat, cymbal...
What you hear ?
An huge "shhhhhh" when the snare hits and something's volume going down to the snare appear ?... Well, this is an narrow dynamic range.

This the result of what we call "Loudness War". Basically, from 1960 to 2010, people have forgot that their sound players has an "volume" knob and the result of this is tracks with "pre-made volume" by factory. There is an interesting video explaining this shortly, it might be good if you take a look:



( Cool video for an vocal isn't it ?... :) )

Ayways, back to dynamics, what we do on this dynamic part of the track is stuff that ranges from compressing unwanted peaks on snares, claps, kickdrums and everything else, or, expanding wanted peaks on it, like, make an snare sounds more punchy than muddy, or removing that crap noise miliseconds after that claps. Also, you can work on an Buss dynamic using an Buss compressor, but this is another step of our mixdown, that I would explain another day.

I could talk a lot about dynamics here, but, noone of my words can explain better than your ears. Play a little with Compressors, Expanders, Dynamic Gates... Tweak the knobs without fear and see what happens. You'll be amazed. Also, keep in mind to stay away from the presets. ( At this point, you should have realized that presets in mixdown are the bad guys... ). Some really good dynamics plugins are the Sonalksis ones, Waves SSL E-Channel (With an great equalizer also), Waves Reinassence Comp, Cockos ReaComp (Free), and a lot more.

Step Four: Reverbs, Delays, Chorus, Flangers...

Haaa, you thought that this was only part of creative process, didn't ya ?
Well, it is not.

Plate reverbs can for example, throw an magic glue on your percurssion rolls and make everything sound better. Delays can make you crashes sound more sweet... Anyways, there is no limits at this points, you can basically put your imagination to work here. Remind to create Sending channels and send stuff you want to them. For example, an "Sends Bus", with an Plate Reverb channel on it. So, if you want to add some plate reverb to an Snare Channel, is just "send" it's signal to the Plate Reverb channel and adjust it's volume ( You may want have more reverb in the Claps than in the Snare, so is just adjust the volume of all sending channels ).

At this point you can use whatever Reverb / Delay and etc you like. I know that discuss what reverb sounds better is the same to discuss about religion or soccer. Everyone has it's own opinion.

The 5th Step for us now, is adjusting the volume / panning of everything

But, Andy, what is the right volume spot ? :omg:

Well, you'll be shocked. But, VU Meters and Peak Levels are just big mistakes... :rofl:

Peak Meters is just an linear representantion of the sound that is being played, just measure the loudness of the audio signal peak at some specific moment. VU Meters (PPM, Logarithmic, Nordic, bla bla bla), are pretty much an curve applied to the Peak Meter, that TRY to approach the measurement to what our ears really hear. Our brain do not listen the audio linear as it is, or with an mathematic curve applied over it. Is an pretty complex mecanism and, if you are adjusting the volume levels by the peak level or VU level, I'm sorry to tell you, but, you are doing tracks to aliens or some being of another species.

So, What's my suggestion ?
Number One - Close your eyes and adjust the channel volume, pay real attention on this, use an lower monitoring volume so you won't get anything distorted by the sensible mechanism of your internal ear, and start trusting your ears. ( But you gotta train them first )

Number Two - Learn about K-System Metering. ( Just type in the google and find some K-System meter ). At this point, I should say only this: Put an K-System Meter on the Main Out channel, solo whichever track you're trying to adjust it's volume and really, try to learn about K-System. You will shit bricks when you realize what is this about.

Well, thats it for now. 5 tips for the day. Is not the ultimate mixdown guide, but I hope that you all do better mixdowns after reading this ( And hope to receive better mixed demos also ). Also, never stop learning, there's a lot of books explaining way better the process of mixing, look for some and read it.

I'm glad to answer any other questions about it, within my disponibility.

:wave:

Anderson T
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Postby Q-Rater » 10 Dec 2010, 13:13

Big up Andy T thanks.

...I know that discuss what reverb sounds better is the same to discuss about religion or soccer. Everyone has it's own opinion.


haha you are right and it's TORAVERB
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Postby andytf » 10 Dec 2010, 19:28

Q-Rater:Big up Andy T thanks.

...I know that discuss what reverb sounds better is the same to discuss about religion or soccer. Everyone has it's own opinion.


haha you are right and it's TORAVERB


Toraverb is really great, those D-16 group guys are quite genious.

But, I'm a hardware reverbs fan. _O_

Never tried Altiverb, people say that is good, but, is just impulse response, isn't it ?
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Postby Q-Rater » 11 Dec 2010, 06:25

andytf:
Never tried Altiverb, people say that is good, but, is just impulse response, isn't it ?


Lol dont ask me
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Postby DJen » 11 Dec 2010, 10:37

thanks for the tips bro. appreciated it _O_
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Postby Q-Rater » 16 Dec 2010, 09:57

Hey anderson, what's an ideal dynamic range for a hardstyle track?
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Postby andytf » 16 Dec 2010, 14:44

Q-Rater:Hey anderson, what's an ideal dynamic range for a hardstyle track?


Some factors are involved, like your taste, your production, the amount of transients "passing the kickdrum barrier"... The ideal is to produce and render in a lower volume than usual, like -10 dB, or -6 dB, anything that makes you comfortable of. Also is cool to use some plugins like this ( Schwa Schope, on the image ), so you can actually see what going on with your track.

http://www.stillwellaudio.com/screenshots/schope-ss-time.jpg

( Can be found here http://www.stillwellaudio.com/?page_id=26 )

Also, after the production and mixdown process, you can use an dynamic range meter at the mastering process (If you gonna do it by yourself). This mostly works taking the difference between peak and RMS A-Weighted values.

http://static.kvraudio.com/i/b/tt-dynamic-range-meter.jpg

( Freeware - Can be found here http://www.brainworx-music.de/en/download )

I'm used to master my tracks using K-14 +2 dB RMS A-Weighted, so you can get an more clear sound of everything. Considering that mostly hardstyle tracks this days use about K-14 +8 dB RMS A-Weighted, and that's high as fuck, with none dynamic range.

This is what I love in vinyl recordings, due to limits imposed by phisical recording on a vinyl disc, you can't master things that loud, and then, there is an wide dynamic range. The bad part is that almost all bass must be mono and higher frequencies must be lowered. If people used the same level reference of vinyls mastering digital tracks, would be almost perfect.
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Postby Q-Rater » 17 Dec 2010, 01:25

Thanks mate
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Postby Adrenalize » 21 Dec 2010, 02:51

Really nice tips!
Gonna try use some of this!
thank you! :) _O_
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Postby ExilioMusic » 21 Dec 2010, 05:30

This tutorial was much needed, thank you so much!
I'll be sure to read more in-depth in the next few days and use some of these techniques.
Greetz
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Postby xinap » 21 Dec 2010, 15:51

Im gonna try that K-14 looks promising :)
some of these things I allready knew but you really enlighted me today :D
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Postby andytf » 22 Dec 2010, 03:44

xinap:Im gonna try that K-14 looks promising :)
some of these things I allready knew but you really enlighted me today :D


http://www.kvraudio.com/db/k_meter_by_mzuther

Just saw that today @ KVR Audio. It's free... :]
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Postby Antiverse » 10 Apr 2011, 19:43

This tutorial was indeed well explained! :)

I've already begun to get a better grip of this process, but i still prefer getting an audio engineering guy to do it for me ^^ just quite difficult atm since i'm broke XD


Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this with us ;)
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Postby Smdeee » 17 Apr 2011, 17:49

cheers for the tips answered plenty of the questions ive had :P
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Postby PumpStatic » 14 Feb 2012, 00:33

Thanks for this!
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