How Do Your Tracks Relate To The Mix?

When it comes to mixing music, one thing that I learned fairly quickly was that your individual tracks will sound different, or appear to sound different once they are listened to in relation to the whole mix. A guitar, drum or other instrument might sound pretty bland or crappy when in solo, but might sound great IN the mix. Conversely, an in-your-face, seemingly grand sounding track might be opposite of what the mix needs.

 When I first started mixing music I had a hard time getting my guitar tracks to sound right. The biggest reason was the fact that I had sold all my amps and pedals for a POD X3 Live(I’ll talk about why in another post) and began using POD Farm for all recording purposes. POD Farm is awesome, but it took me a bit of time to learn the program and get my tones where I wanted them to be. Eventually I realized that the tones I thought sounded week and small actually sounded great once I listened to them in the mix. I wanted them to sound like an amp in a room, but they’re a modeling amp over headphones! Once I placed them in the mix, properly EQed them and cranked it, they sounded awesome!

The point I am making here is that many times the tracks you record will sound different in the mix than they do in solo. Many times you will need to create your guitar tones, synth tones and other sounds with relation to the entire mix. Once I realized this it became much easier for me to nail down a tone quickly and have it fit the song and overall sound I was after.

I’ll be doing an in depth review of POD Farm in the near future. I think it’s a tool many folks are turning to in this digital age. Not everyone can afford $3000 worth vintage amps and effects. The modeled amps might not sound exactly like their real life counter parts, but many of the models are extremely close, and many others sounds fantastic. Anyhow, stay tuned for the review. Have a great week everyone. Cheers!

 

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Less Is More… most of the time.

When working on a given project, I often find myself reaching for all the different tools I have to work with. It makes sense doesn’t it? Why am going to keep this midi controller here if I’m not going to use synth pads, organs, effects and other virtual instruments? Why shouldn’t I add some piano parts? I’ve got basically unlimited tracks too, why not double track 3 guitar parts and pan them all crazy like for a giant wall of sound? Then acoustic guitars… then vocals… then a bunch of back ground vocals… Yeah! Lets do it!

NOT! I have learned from my last few projects that less can and most of the time WILL be “more”. The song I am currently working on really is teaching this concept moreso than others. So I got a basic format laid down. A single acoustic guitar, one rhythm and one lead electric, a B3, bass, drums and vocals. It’s really not a lot going on so far. At the end of my last recording session I was right about to add some piano parts and guitar over dubs but I had to leave for work, so I bounced a stereo file and converted it to MP3, put it on my phone and took off in the car. (the car test is kinda my bench test because I’ve listened to music in there so dang much I know how it should sound)

To put it quite simply I was blown away by how great the track sounded, even in the beginning stages and as an MP3. Tight bottom end, full sounding mids and just a bit of sparkle. I decided that there was no need for anything else other than the BGVs and a final vocal track. It’s still hard backing off from some piano but it sounds so clean to me and I like the simple feel and lack of muddyness.

Moral of the story is, if you find your tracks super busy, complex and muddy, maybe you’ve simply got TOO much crap going on. Isolate the basic feel and direction of the song and ask yourself if there is anything that can come out without affecting that direction. You would be surprised how far you can get with just a few well recorded, well performed tracks. This might not always be the right tactic but it helps sometimes when your song feels cluttered. Hope it helps you guys. It’s sure helped me!

Cheers!

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