It's Not You - My initial mix for a competition

It's Not You - My initial mix for a competition
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This is a track I mixed from the Audio Mix Club Website It’s my initial mix. I still have some more detailed work to do to it (vocal details, automation) but this is the basic shape of it. It would be good to get some feedback on it.

Here is the original, released mix:

Hey mate,
I can’t comment with too much authority at the moment as I am listening through my TV sound bar and whilst it has pretty good sound, it’s probably not the best for real critical listening.
I love it when it all kicks in! Everything sounds really balanced and spread. The clean vocal at the start sounds a little too upfront for my taste, but it’s not ruining it by any means. Once the chorus kicks in though, everything feels perfect. You’ve done an unbelievable job of blending all those parts in the chorus. Reminds me of ELO. Can clearly hear the strings, drums, bass, acoustic guitar without any effort at all! Stellar!
The vocal effect in the bridge, emptier chorus is great and I feel like there needs to be elements of that on the verse vocals to pull it back into the mix of the instrumentation. But I know your credentials and I’m not about to tell you what to do.
Great job, really well done.

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Great mix and great song! I love how tight the musicians are playing on this, it really gives a nice “pro” touch to this tune. The mix lives up to the level of the song, but that isn’t really a surprise coming from you.

The transition from the “lo-fi” style intro into the normal arrangement is really huge, nice wow factor here. I see that this is your doing, you nailed it. Surely a big plus in a mix competition.

First thing I’m hearing that might need an improvement is that the lead vocals isn’t standing out as much as I would like during the intro (and, to a lesser extent, during the rest of the song in some places). I know for a fact how hard it can be to deal with this because my first song had the same arrangement: the intro vocal part was an octave lower than the rest, and I struggled to get that right. In your mix, as soon as the vocals rise up to their “normal” range they’re great, it’s really just during the intro. The lower mid range is busy with this highly processed bass drum and the left hand smashing octaves on the piano, so I would guess that the only viable solution is to cut these frequencies out drastically from the vocal, even though it’s a shame to remove some of the warmth here. Maybe experiment some light sidechain compression on the bass drum and maybe the piano, with the vocal as the input?

Also the acoustic guitar brings a nice touch of air in the highs but it’s so filtered it doesn’t really sound like a guitar anymore, isn’t there a way to bring back more of the audible harmonic content?

Another small thing: the saturation on the vocals isn’t consistent. Of course it shouldn’t be perfectly consistent but to my ear it’s not pleasant when the changes are too abrupt so I would try to tame that. I noticed in “Lean” that you were using that quite liberally. I like to use it more subtly but that’s definitely a matter of taste. In the context of a competition, I would tend to say that it might be safer to go with a more conventional level of saturation on the lead vocals in this particular genre.

Around the 2 minute mark I started to lose the lead vocals a bit, probably due to the denser arrangement, but I assume this is part of what you already planned to adjust.

During the bridge I don’t like the hi-hat sound, it’s almost as if it had been compressed in mp3, but it might just be a matter of taste. Oh wait, I’m actually listening to an mp3 right now :grin: so maybe it’s just that.

I like the effect on the vocals after the guitar solo, but I’m not a fan of the point in time you chose to revert to the normal vocal sound, I would have made the switch a bar later maybe, I’m not sure what would work but I just feel there’s something that doesn’t quite work here.

Also, I like the small portion when the backing vocals go “pap-pap-pap-pap” better on the original mix. There is a nice disruption here that I miss in your mix.

Overall though, provided the last balance touch-ups are done, I can safely say that I like your mix better than the original. :+1:

edit: just read @danmanisa and it’s funny that we had quite a contradictory comment on the intro vocals.

So I listened again and I will clarify my point: I think that despite the fact that the vocals are loud in volume, there is some conflicting frequencies with the instruments, some of the low-mids (I think) in the vocals are masked by the bass drum and possibly the piano. Also, the saturation on the vocals brings out the sibilance a lot so it is a bit misleading because it makes the vocals seem loud, but at the same time in the lower range they’re a bit buried in the arrangement. At least that’s what I’m hearing. It’s subtle, not a big issue.

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Yeah, I read that too but when I read your comments, I think we may be touching on similar things. The vocals sound like they are separate from the mix if that helps make our thoughts meet. :slight_smile:

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sounding good, good movement, good balance, good energy. I agree with the other two regarding the opening vocals.

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Hey Dan - great to hear from you again! Yeah, this is a pretty challenging production. There are 84 tracks (!) in the session download. I ditched a few of them that were duplicates and DIs, but I still ended up with 75 tracks to mix from.

One of the challenges is that, although the song has so much going on, it all seems pretty “full on” right from the beginning, and then it only gets bigger. The mutes and textural changes I introduced were an effort to create less of a predictable, linear build to the song.

I’m still grappling with the lead vocal to get it seated perfectly through all the changes. Good to know the chorus is working, but it’s great to get your input regarding the things that still need attention.

Thanks for listening and commenting - much appreciated! :beerbanger: :+1:

Hey Jean-Marc! Wow, thank you so much for the comprehensive critique! There is a lot there for me to think about, but it’s great to get your input and your suggestions.

Regarding the acoustic guitars - I haven’t really filtered them at all. Just a gentle high pass and and a bit of a dip in the low mids.
Acoustic EQ

Even that eq probably looks more radical than it sounds - here is what the acoustics sound like solo’d:

Quite natural.

I think it might be just a case of so many elements in the midrange during the choruses causing the acoustics to be masked so that only the high end comes through. Counter-intuitively, it might be a case of needing to boost midrange in the acoustics to the point where they sound unnatural solo’d to get them to cut through. I might also need to really tame the transients pretty radically to bring the harmonic content to a more constant level.

Cool, thanks for taking a listen and commenting, Eric!

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Yes quite natural guitar sound indeed! I wasn’t expecting that, there must be a lot of masking going on. Sounds like they were played with a pick and in the mix the pick noise is pretty much all there is left in the mix, but it’s actually pleasant to have this strumming pattern complement the rhythmic section. It might not be necessary to do anything at all, I was just commenting because it struck me that I couldn’t make out the chords. Actually in the original mix the guitars are almost inaudible.

Side note: I think it’s pretty cool to mix with Reaper’s stock plugins!

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Normally I would destroy the pick noise with my super secret patented techniques :rofl: but when I heard them in the track, I liked the rhythmic momentum they lent to the choruses.

I use stock plugins quite a bit - especially with a high track count like this song had. (84 tracks supplied originally. I whittled them down to 75 tracks used in the mix. Once I added aux tracks, busses, and a few mults we ended up with over 100 tracks!). They are light on CPU, easy to work with and transparent.

ReaEQ, ReaComp and ReaDelay are very populous on every mix I do. I generally “prepare” every track with ReaEQ for eq cuts, high and low passes etc, before I move to any other processing.

There is a Waves plugin I use an awful lot because it is super convenient (combines a preamp with saturation, 2 de-essers, an EQ, a compressor, a gate and much more). Its designer claims that once an instance of the plugin is loaded, you can add as many other instances as you want, it won’t add anymore CPU load. I haven’t bothered to verify that myself but it sounds like a very cool feature for anyone lacking processing power or working on huge projects. I’m not a plugin addict but this one is definitely a must-have for me.

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I LOVE the Scheps Omni Channel! That thing just works! Man, I have so many plugins, sometimes I forget about some of them for a while…:man_facepalming:

I don’t think I used SOC on this mix, but I did use this cool Waves channel strip that I hadn’t really explored much on the piano in the mix, as well as this cool Waves compressor for the drum room sounds. We’re super spoilt for choice these days!

BTW, speaking of SOC, quite a while ago when I first got it, I basically did an entire mix using only it (+ just a few others for reverb and modulation duties):

I keep telling myself that, but I must have been at some stage! I haven’t actually bought a plugin in ages!

LOL that’s right, it is a lot easier to not be a plugin addict after you’ve bought them all!

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@ColdRoomStudio just stumbled upon a video of Andrew Scheps breaking down one of his mixes and he mostly uses the Omni Channel. After introducing the DS² he mentions the exact thing we were discussing above about the pick noise vs harmonic content in an acoustic guitar within a dense arrangement. It is starting around 13:30 in this video:

https://www.waves.com/open-mix-session-andrew-scheps?utm_source=wnletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekend-content-scheps-open-session-may-16-2020

The whole video is interesting if you love the plugin. I don’t know about you, but each time I see Andrew Scheps talk about “his” plugin I’m learning something new about it.

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