In our class last Monday we had a session in the Neve studio, and later moved to the Audient studio to check out Adrian Carroll’s (teacher, audio engineer and local musician) mix of the band we have been recording as part of class, Royal Artillery. We were previously part of the recording process, and after this session it seems that Adrian is happy with his mix to provide for the band. I’m going to share with you some of the mixing tips that he has given the class. I will be following this up with my own mix of the stems at some point as well.
In this session, Adrian showed us the importance of using at least one (if not more) comparator to help you understand your mix. This is because each set of speakers or headphones has it’s own frequency response and as such you may not pick up some details in one set of speakers that are prevalent in another. In his example he showed us the difference between the Event monitors, the DynAudio monitors, and the lower-quality Oritone speaker. The Event and DynAudio monitors are fairly similar but still useful for comparison purposes, however what was interesting was his use of the Oritone speaker as his mono monitoring tool as well as to check that the mix still sounded good without a perfect high or low frequency response. This lets you make sure that the detail in your mid frequency range is able to hold up largely by itself, as well as showing you whether the mid and high frequencies of the kick drum, snare and vocals cut through the mix rather than just their low frequencies. He also emphasised that if you mix through the Oritone first and then went to the studio monitors that your mix would always sound better, however the same does not hold true for reversing the process. Another method that helps monitor your balance is centralising your stereo pan pots on your mix bus to make it mono and make sure your panning isn’t altering your perception of balance, as it affects your perception of space in the mix.
We then ran an exercise in comparing outboard EQ to plugin EQ, where we first EQd Royal Artillery’s track using the outboard EQ, and then tried emulating the EQ with a Channel Strip plugin, using narrow-Q boosts of 2db at 1.25khz and 2.5khz as well as a 1.5db boost to 3.15khz and a high pass at 125hz. While we got close to the same sound with the channel strip plugin, it lacked the precision of the outboard EQ due to the circuitry involved in it’s hardware. This is usually the difference in all plugins that try to emulate hardware, you can get close, but there’s a certain quality missing due to the circuitry and build quality of the hardware.
Adrian also walked us through the benefits of gating vs not gating, explaining that too much gating of instruments can lead to an unnatural, overproduced sound that for the projects he works on just doesn’t fit stylistically. He prefers instead to work with the bleed from each microphone to replicate the organic sound of the instruments in the room. I’ve noticed Adrian also has a philosophy on recording and mixing that resonates heavily with sound design for interdisciplinary projects in that he uses multiple microphones on the same instrument (for example, a Sennheiser MD421, Shure Beta52 and PZM on a kick drum) in order to bring out a certain texture he likes.
As it always is with Adrian’s classes, this session on mixing was invaluable, and assists my own understanding of the mixing process greatly after being away from mixing for multiple years before coming back to SAE last trimester.