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 How Do You Utilize Your Plugins, etc.?
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soundchaser59 Offline
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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2007 9:10 pm    Post subject: How Do You Utilize Your Plugins, etc.? Reply with quote

Ok, I need help. This question is old and moldy, but I'm gonna bring it up again since I an a sequencing noob in this forum. Not wanting to argue, but I need tips. I'm new to this computer based recording thing, I just did my first ever computer based mix, and I cant do anything with it because.......well.......frankly.....I'm not even close.

Problem is when I mix in my basement, I get a good mix and it plays loud and all that. But when I render it all down to a finished mp3 and play it side by side with the tunes posted on the forum, my mix is not even close. Sure, it sounds good if I crank it way up to fun levels, but at those same levels the other tunes posted here would blast the cones outa the speakers. So I know I'm missing something in the "how to" here. Not how to make it loud, but generally how do you guys piece together your mix. Some basic questions to start out.....

-Is it better to do as much as possible with plugins and fx in the sequencer? I have a whole different set of plugins available in the seqeuncer, and they are pretty darn good sounding fx. Yet another different set of plugins available in the software mixer, and they are good, way better than what I had in my rack. And still another set of plugins in Wavelab for "mastering" and rendering. Assuming for the moment that the computer can handle 16 tracks with 3 or 4 plugins on each track without hitting more than 50-60% on the processor, where do you emphasize your real meat-and-potatoes processing of the sound?

-Where do you have your hottest levels? I did this first mix with things set at about -6 to -12 in the sequencer, then everything downstream in the soft mixer and the wav editor was set to just under 0. I thought I was getting some clipping out of the sequencer due to the plugins, some of which have output gain. So I turned the levels down coming out of the sequencer, and instead turned things up in the soft mixer. Clean and loud, sounded good! But the soft mixer feeds the wav editor, and when I set everything to 0 in the wav editor and render the final wav (or mp3) it plays back much softer than all the mixes you guys post on here. Is that a sequencer levels issue? Or a home-mastering-for-dummies issue?

-For those of you who use Ozone, what settings or presets do you rely on for your final mix? In my room I thought the standard CD mix with exciter and widening sounded good, punchy, loud, wide, etc.....but.....when I play it back later as an mp3 file on headphones, it sounds weak and too wide, empty in the middle, and much softer than I thought it would be.

-What order do you put your plugins in? Seems like the ability to put plugins and fx in any order is very powerful but can also be a big weakness if I dont understand how that order impacts my ability to mix later on. EQ before or after compressor? Reverb after compressor? Level (Trim) control before the reverb or after the reverb?

It's as if there are soooo many possible combinations and ways to do things with this software, that I can murder and butcher my song before I even realize what has happened. And I dont realize it until after I walk away from my studio and my monitors and listen to the tune in the real world on the real stereos and speakers and levels that real people are used to. It's as if I'm used to mastering my bicycle or my motorcycle, and all of a sudden I've been put behind the stick of a top fighter jet. Great technology, but much easier to incinerate my song in the blink of an eye. Ya know what I mean Vern??

So what am I missing here? Is the learning curve just a lot steeper and a lot longer than I thought? Or is it a matter of learning to keep it simple - despite the power of the technology - and simply trying to recreate what I used to do with a rack and a mixer, but using a computer and plugins instead?? It seems like if I do that then I'm basically saying that half of the stuff this computer will do is overkill and is not relevant to recreating my hardware analog mixing style. I listened to my first computer mix side by side with my last analog mix, and the last analog mix was waaaaay better, much much bigger. tighter sounding, pushing the envelope in many ways without clipping, etc.... I want to figure out how to mix like that on the computer rig!

So, let's fill in some gaps here in SC's digital chops!! What kind of tips are floating around out there that can help me get back to the style and sound of mixes I had achieved before my old sequencer died?? All ideas and suggestions are appreciated!
SC

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stainless Offline
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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2007 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well I take a stab, despite the fact that after 6 years in the digital realm I still struggle

Ozone- differnent presets work better for different "voices" (if that makes sense)... so long story short... experiment. I do like the parametric fo finding troublesome freqs

bouncing to MP3's always leaves something to be desired, but it's workable. In fact I think you commented on one of my early mixes that it was really quiet.

I've learned to try and minimize plug-ins on individual tracks and focus more on tracking technique. I've spent entire afternoons (after using masking tape to make a 2" grid on the floor) moving the mic in relation to source (and man have I gotten really tired of some "riffs/lines" which I used to like)

Plug-ins- if I'm going to use EQ, it goes first, then compressoin/limiting, and then verb or whatever Fx.

I monitor all tracks to make sure there are no clips, then bounce to 24 bit and open a new "session" and import just that stereo track. If there is/was a track that needed some more presence, I'll bring it in separately... but I "try" to so solve these issues in the mix.

From the "final mix" I'll add some final EQ (I like Pultec), maybe some limiting (I like Massey's L2007) or I may use Ozone or Peak, although I find I 'zone' more in the mix and Bias if I'm burning a "songlist"

I know there's still many hours of education ahead, but this is a brief synopsis of where I am now...

for better of worse... but I did get my first group of comments indicating I was done/almost done with a mix! Smile

holy shit!!!

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soundchaser59 Offline
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OOOOPS! Double Post.
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Last edited by soundchaser59 on Thu May 10, 2007 5:37 am; edited 1 time in total
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soundchaser59 Offline
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Appreciate your time responding, Stainless. That is very useful info.

I just found out there are user-contributed presets for ozone available for download. The mastering presets by George seem to be highly recommended.

But you are saying you use ozone on individual tracks? I had not considered that option. And then when you bounce it to another track, it gets recorded on the destination track with the ozone effect applied to it??

Yes, tracking technique! In other words, I should consider the possibility that the more plugins I am using on idividual tracks, the more likely it is that my original tracking could have been done better.

Someone else suggested that he never worries about playback levels until he is doing his final master.

And your comments have me thinking that part of my problem is my idea that just because the computer WILL do all this stuff to the mix, means I SHOULD do all this stuff to the mix. My last analog mix was good, and it didn't have half the processing on it that this first digital mix has, and it sounded way better than this. Plus I fell into the same trap I fell into years ago with analog.....thinking that there is one setting, one snapshot that will work for all songs, IF I can just find it and write it down! Well, that "logic" aint gonna work. It really is a track by track, song by song process.

Seems like most of this is stuff I "knew" from analog mixing, and simply forgot and overlooked in the haze of new found novelty with the computer and the plugins.

Thanks for the "moral compass". - SC

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soundchaser59 Offline
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I posted the tune in the Listening Room so you can hear what kind of help I might need. FYI....
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