Mix Bus Q&A
Yeah, questions coming in right now. So Wes has a question. "Do you wait until everything is tracked before applying the processing on the Master Fader, or do you record through it?"
I'm not too fussy. I've done it enough times to not... I don't know. It depends. If there's a client there, then I'll generally have some processing on the Master Bass, so that they're hearing something that sounds really polished. If I'm tracking something for myself, I don't really care. I'll do weird things like just track my guitars to a repeating kick and snare. Just going... Instead of a click track. (laughs) And I would never do that with a client, but there's certain things, if it's just me, I don't mind hearing those things if it's gonna help me not have to care about that aspect of the process. Limiters, generally, like the really good ones, add some amount of latency and even with latency compensation I find that it can get really tricky sometimes, tracking into session with those. Generally, ...
anything really intensive on the Master Bass can really slow your computer down. So if that's a problem, I'll strap it. But I generally tell... If the client is like," whoa, what's going on?" I'll say don't really like... This is just so that, you have really low latency while you're tracking.
Can you just quickly define what saturation generally is, regardless of whether it's analog or digital?
Just distortion basically. What distortion is, is where your clipping the piece off a signal. So something that was, say a soundwave, it's like a really nice smooth wave like that, by the time it's being distorted, you're basically just gonna flatten out the top and bottom. Now, it's not quite as simple as that, because the particular device will have a very particular way of doing it. It won't just be like a completely flat cut. And that's where the different harmonic character comes from. But you'll see later once we get to one of the bass tracks that I've distorted, you can compare it to the DI which is right above it. In fact, why not? We'll do it right now. Just visually, you can see during the kind of the bit N7 here, the kind of stern rerift. This is my DI bass guitar for that part. On this track here, I'll show you what that sounds like. (Bass plays) It's running through all the processing as well. This is that same track run through a Darkglass B7K distortion pedal maxed out. And as you can see, there is literally no information there. It is a complete square. That is distortion taken to an absolute extreme. And if you listen to that, as the title of the track says, it's pretty filthy. (bass plays) Surprisingly, you can still kind of, even though it looks like that, you can tell that it's a bass guitar. There is some information in there. This is also running through the pedal here. This part over here, you can see, compared to that. It has been flattened out. So there's a visual representation of what distortion is doing to its signal. Those are literally the same signals. I recorded it DI and then reamped it through the pedal later.
Tom wants to know, "Nali do you typically run multiple buses, or do you prefer fewer. If you are running multiple buses, are you running your plugins from the buses, or on the particular tracks?"
We'll get into mixing all of the tracks later. But generally, it's a combination. And if you look, just so you can see quickly, you can see, these drums, these green channels, I have all the kick mics, some to go through this capitalized, so we know it's a bus up here, that says "kick." And then, same for the snare, the TOMS, the cymbals, which is all the spot mics and overheads. The Monoroom is all on its lonesome, and then we have the stereo rooms down here. Same thing for the bass. You can see I've got individual channels there, and then the kind of, Master Bass bust there. Depending on what it is, there might not be anything on the individual track. It might just be processed alongside other things. But sometimes a specific sound is required, or there's a fault within the track, a resonance or something that I want to cut out before I want to combine it with something else. So it really depends, but I like, if I can to treat things on buses. I like to see fewer plugins on my mixer. Sometimes it's not appropriate but yeah.
Joe Johns wants to know, "Is there any reason you'd use the bus compressor to duct the signal, instead of sidechain compression? Does it sound different if you do it that way?"
Yeah, I mean it's kind of achieving the same result. I don't know what the sidechain.. The thing is the snare. If you saw the waveform of the whole mix with no Master bass processing on it, the snare is gonna be poking out, like this much, on either side. So it's by far the biggest transient out of anything. So you've got so much headroom there for the compression to see, so there's really not a need to sidechain it. You could, but I don't think you'd really get any difference in sound. It's an interesting idea. You can try it, but yeah, I've never run into a problem where the snare is not getting enough.. You know, there isn't enough snare for the compressor to see to act on it without being triggered by other things.
"Does Nali keep the limiter on, when sending the mixes off the be mastered?"
I do not. I do not, that always comes off. I have it there to be able to get the balance correct, but that's the one thing that I take off when I send it to mastering.
Mmkay. Alex wants to know," You mentioned that you deliberately make the periphery juggarnaut mixes a bit dark, do you change your tubus EQ with that in mind, or just mix each source differently?"
No, that mix all ran through basically what you just saw there. A couple of old reiterations of some of those plugins, because they hadn't come out at the time. But, you know you can still... If you don't boost high enough on anything, it's still probably gonna be a little bit darker than most commercial mixes. And also the darkness of that record came from almost the opposite end of the spectrum, really enforcing the law mids and the lows. And the cymbals where also quiet in the mix, and their really what's contributing the top information so, it's not so much EQ in the top end, but reduction of the elements that have a lot of top end. And then, an increase in the stuff at the other end of the spectrum.
Do you still use the Metro K Low channel strip compressor?
Yeah. It's on the kick drum in this mix, and we'll get to that, but I think that the one instance of it in this mix.
We'll talk about it more later. But I like it because the gate seems to work really well for kick drums. And again, if I can have less plugins on there, then I'm happier, so on the snare I found some things which I like more or maybe I'm seeking a change, just cause we're humans and generally like to change things up, but this compressor actually just came out a couple of days ago. It's version 2 of the compressor this company made, and I tried in in the hotel room last night, after the tracking session, and thought it sounded great, so it's on the mix.
So we'll get into that later.
Karen wants to know, "Could you explain what sidechaining is? I always see it on some of my plugins, but I'm too afraid to use it. I know it links another bus, but for what purpose?"
Without getting too far into it, just...
Yeah. No, it's kind of like, I'm trying to think of the really good way to explain it. If you imagine that... If there's an internal sidechain in a plugin, what that means is that within the plugin, it is duplicating the signal. Applying some kind of processing to that signal. Generally, filtering so maybe EQing a way low end and top end, or applying a boost somewhere in the mid range, or something. And then, it's looking at that, and reacting to that, but the actual compression, what's coming out of it, is being applied to the original source signal. And you never hear the version that it's hearing. It's a really powerful tool. You can also do things with external sidechaining, where basically, you.. You're the one providing what it's listening to. And in that case, it doesn't have to be a duplicate of the signal. It could be, as we were discussing earlier, just the snare drum or something. Or you could.. I mean, it might not even be something that's present in the mix. You could sidechain, you know, if you didn't have... I'm trying to think of a weird thing that you could do. Maybe you could use the click track, muted, but at the same time, being muted for the monitors, but being sent to a compressor, and triggering the compressor every time the click occurs. You never hear it, but you hear the effect of that on the track that you've got the compressor put on. It can also be... Yeah, it can be really useful for, let's say, if you've got a noisegate. For honing in on the exact frequencies that you want that gate to work on. Let's say you have.. The kick drum has a lot more low end energy than, say the cymbals and the snare that might be leaking into that microphone. If we really want to effectively gate that, we could tell the gate to just look at the low end of the kick, and we'd be using the side chain for that. Because there's so much less kind of, cross talk coming from those other signals into it. So that would be a really good use of a side chain, an internal sidechain within a gate.
Nali, do you use any stereo-widening plugins, or do you rely more on panning combined with compression EQ to create natural space in the mix?
Very rarely. I use it a little bit on rhythm guitars, which we'll get to. I do plenty of mixes where I don't use any of it. Generally, I try to not use too many artificial widening plugins. Sometimes they have a really noticeable sound, which is cool and works really well in certain contexts, but sometimes, it's I don't know. It's almost like hearing, it's not as bad, but it's almost like hearing artifacts of auto tune on a vocalist or something. Sometimes. I do sometimes use it if someone sent me a stereo source that's just way too narrow. At a session recently where, the engineer who tracked some drums opted to use a stereo microphone, which basically set up very much like the mics we had in front of the kit yesterday. The small diaphragm condenses in an AV configuration. That really doesn't give a very wide image. And this was for the overhead of the drums. And I feel like the cymbals were all in the middle here, and that might be cool for another style of music, but for metal and rock I like to hear really extreme panning of the cymbals. I like to hear it filling the whole stereo space, in that occasionally I did use a stero widener to try and artificially create that.
Awesome Do you use linear phase EQ?
And there is a really really really good tutorial about it. Made.. I sound like I'm sponsored by this company. But I'm not, I wish I was. FabFilter have a an amazing series, every plugin they do, they have an amazing video for that is narrated by... I think the guy's name is Dan Warl, who has an amazingly soothing voice. These videos are some of the best videos I have ever seen for describing really complicated functions within their plugins. And there's one just dedicated to linear phase EQ. And I'm not going to try and simplify this too much because we'll spend far too much time talking about it otherwise, but effectively the way that it works it can introduce preringing in bass frequencies. If you use a linear phase EQ to high power something like a kick drum, you might actually notice you hear the low end swelling into the kick. And that's to do with, actually the latency, stuff within the dual. Latency stuff, that's the technical term. And that's something which, yeah, I'm just very wary of doing it. If I'm high passing something quite extremely, as a duplicate of something else, that high pass can introduce a really bad phase shift just above the point of the filter. And when you recombine it, you can get some really bad cancellation. That would be the only time I'd use the linear phase EQ.
Again, sponsership from this company, I'm gonna push for after this, I better get sponsored. Their EQ that's kind of my go to EQ, has different modes. This is zero latency mode, which is kind of like a regular one. A regular EQ. Between that and linear phase they have a step called natural phase, which is based more on how analog filters work. And that's a really good in between. And I use that quite a lot too. But to be honest, most of the time if you played me a mix and you know, on the overheads you used natural phase EQ and the same filter shave on that and send me another one with linear phase EQ, if you sent anyone that, and said "what's the difference?" This one's so much better. They'd be absolutely crazy. There's very little to hear in the context of a mix, when you're talking about stuff like that.
Okay How often do you reference back to a commercial mix during the mixing process? Are you toggling back and forth?
I do at some stages.
I generally do it to hurt my ego a little bit. Because generally by the time you have like a rough mix going, especially before you add vocals, because that always changes everything. But if you've worked really hard on a really great drum mix and the bass and guitars are rocking to, you can really start to feel like you're nailing something amazing, and then you sometimes need to be brought back down to earth. And you have to really fight the urge to listen to a commercial mix and be like, "wow! Mine's sounds so much better!" because that's something which I think everyone's fallen into the trap of, and then you come back the next day and realize, "No mine actually just sounds weird. And I was so used to it that I just thought it sounded so much better than everything else." It depends where I am. We're going to be talking a bit in the coming segments about, well, the very fact like, right now we're mixing.. Well actually, I mixed on this laptop last night on those headphones what you hear right now. And that's something that's easy to do, without references of some sort. So we'll be talking about referencing music, but we'll be talking about using analyzers. Frequency analyzers to help fill in some of the information you might not be hearing. And make sure that your stuff is not being skewed unduly.