'The Blindness That Guides' [updated mix]

So I’ve been anguishing over mixing vocals for this new song the better part of a week, and while I definitely feel there’s some positive progress been made, I know deep down there’s more that could be done to get the vocals to sit a lot more harmoniously, but I’ve all but exhausted my limited bag of tricks at this point.
To be honest I really struggled with these vocals, especially trying to tame some quite unruly (to my ears anyway) mid/high frequency whistle lurking mostly at 4k and 8k.
I’ll drop a little sample of one of the main vocals just as an idea. Is the ‘whistle’ even a problem, or can your ears just become too taxed, and sensitive to these frequencies?

I mean, it’s easy enough to tame these specific areas using some precision m/b compression, but at the same time, it seems to rob a lot of much needed high end mojo to help the vocal cut in the mix.
I’m basically all out of ideas at this point, would really appreciate some thoughts, ideas, criticisms and insights into how to get this one over the finish line.

EDIT: I guess, never underestimate the importance of using reference tracks when mixing, i just listened back to the original mix alongside the updated version, and the difference really is like night and day. That’s the problem when you don’t do enough of this sort of thing, you forget these basic fundamentals.
Anyway, went right back to the drawing board with this one and removed a lot of unnecessary processing I had going on and tried to approach it more subtractively, as opposed to just trying to boost to make elements poke out.
Rather than trying eq presence into the guitars, I went with duplicate tracks this time around to help fortify the sound without all the nasty high/mid clutter and it seemed to help a lot.
Probably more that could be done to add energy to the mix, but I think it’s a big step in the right direction from where started.

Updated version:

NOTE: the vocal was tracked on a Neuman U87 into a Neve 1073


I will not hear
You’re speaking these words that peak my deepest fear
Can’t understand you
You’re speaking these words that will not penetrate
My brain

As we drift
Through the never
And we won’t
Be denied
I can’t emerge from the matrix
Ignorance set in stone
This blindness that guides me
Much further from home


There’s no fight our minds defeated
Read the writing on the wall
Not one reasoned thought among us
For those fools they fooled us all

Speak to me
Speak to me Of deception
That we cannot
We cannot recognize
I’m still a slave to the matrix
Apathy set in stone
This blindness that guides me
Further and further from home

I flick a switch on this box
And I let it do my thinking for me
It’s so easy

Just flick this switch, tune it in
And it tells me what to believe
It’s so real

Now up is down, black is white
War is peace and that’s a fact Jack
Yeah That’s a fact Jack

Just flick this switch, tune it in
And let the lies sink deep within you
They’re deep within
They’re deep within you

You have a good vibe happening overall. It’s an atmospheric production.

I’m not totally satisfied with the vocals but they’re pretty good. There sounds to be some pitch issues in a few spots that can probably be pitch corrected or re-recorded. The first sour vocal is on “and we won’’t” and there is one or 2 other spots later in the song also. I think the vocal tone sounds good but if I were to guess I would say that you might be having difficulties taming the dynamics of the vocals and getting the levels of the vocals to ride the music evenly in different parts of the song. This can be tricky, especially if you have a vocal that is sung in more than one register, some vocal parts doubled and some not, some vocals with lots of effect and some much drier. Vocals can struggle to get through the mix if there’s a wall of sound happening too. I should also mention that I’m listening to this through iPad speakers, so aside from the few pitchy notes in the vocal, my experience might be very different if I was listening through a good set of cans or through studio monitors.

I’m not very skilled at smoothing out or correcting vocals in the mixing stage, other than simple volume changes and volume automation, though I dislike doing heavy volume automation because it’s pretty labour intensive. Besides volume automation, you can use a compressor to help you out a bit, or use multiple instances of com-ression. The most important aspect of getting a good dynamically smooth vocal is the performance, as it’s being recorded. The same goes with every instrument. Pitch, timing, dynamics, expression and tone, ideally, should be captured at the recording stage. I just don’t have the mixing chops to correct impurities in my performance so I usually try to get fairly strong performances in my recordings, unless I’m just demoing stuff.

The vocal you have here is pretty good overall. I think if you touch up the pitchy spots and get the vocals to sit a bit better in the mix in some places, you’ll have yourself a very good production. Even as it is now, it sounds quite good :+1: .

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Hi Terry, I think - in a roundabout way - you have kind of answered your own question here. I actually don’t think the vocal is the problem, rather, it’s the way you have the instruments mixed around it.

The first thing I noticed when I played the track is that the mix has a tonne of energy centred around 2.5k (mainly coming from the guitars, I think). My guess is that, to get the vocal to cut through so that it is audible, you’ve been really boosting those high mids and highs, with the result being that the resonances there are just cutting your head off.

When you have a battle happening in the high mids in a mix, it creates a real “vicious cycle of fatigue” with your hearing. I know - I’ve been there, done that!

The answer is level-matched referencing. A suggestion: Take a break from your mix, and then come back with fresh ears and fire up some reference mixes in a similar genre/style. You’ll hear as clear as day what is happening, I guarantee…

Once you tame those wild geetars, you’ll find it much easier to get the vocal to cut through without the aggro.

Hope that helps in some small way.


I was actually listening back to the solo’d main vocal, and the double before I even posted this thinking to myself there’s a few bung notes that could be sorted out, but upon hearing your appraisel I went back in for a bit of a deep dive and realized it’s a job that needed doing right from the word go.
I guess I thought they were passable, but when you’re struggling to achieve an upfront, clear sounding vocal, off-key notes just seem to compound the problem.
In regards to the actual vocal performance, there was a ton of dynamic variation in the levels that i had to sort out prior to even throwing them in the session by way of some automated peak controlling. But even after that I’ve basically got manual automation on every single word, and in some instances multiple to try and inhance certain inflections, and this is where all the headaches started, as you’d play around with specific elements in the mix i.e guitars to help the vocals cut and next thing you know all your vocal automation is up the shit and your’re back in there manually readusting everything again, and it all became a bit of a doom-loop, going backwards and forwards chasing my tail.
Next thing I knew, a week and a half had passed and i hadn’t really acheived much except completely trashing my ears.

Yep, upon reflection this may be where all my vocal problems are stemming from, which brings up the next dilemma of how do I get the guitars to cut without being intrusive and masking other elements…sigh.
Hey thanks for the feedback man, I’ve Melodyned the shit out of all the vocals now and overall they’re sounding much better.
Just a matter of getting them to play nice with the guitars now, cheers.

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Yep, 100%. It seems to be an issue i run into everytime, in trying to get guitars to be upfront, crunchy, and present. Which I thought i’d done fairly well pre-vox, but then you add vocals to the mix and it just becomes a downward spiral of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
And in the end, all I really achieved was destroying my ears, and not much else.

I’m going to do just this, I think the poor old ears have recovered slightly from the week and a half of constant bashing, and i’m definitely not going to be able to progress any further with the guitars (and more than likely the bass) in their current state.

Do you know of any articles or vids that delve a little more deeply into this topic Andrew? I’d really like to get my head around this whole frequency masking problem, and if i could do it through referencing it sounds like it would be a big help.
Thanks for your insightful feedback as always mate, looks like i’ve still got some work ahead.

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This video is quite good:

I tend to reference once I have a “stable fader” static mix in place. That is usually a little later than what he is showing here - usually after I have eq’d and compressed the individual tracks, and once I have a little bit of buss compression happening too.

But really, referencing at any time is just basically a reality check. As Graham points out in the video, we lose objectivity SO quick when mixing.

To address this issue, I like to think of mix referencing in terms of a wine-tasting analogy: In between tasting different wines you are given a “palette-cleanser”. Mix referencing does the same thing - it “resets” your hearing. Just as our taste buds get skewed by powerful flavours and aromas, our hearing perception gets skewed when listening to the same thing repeatedly. Mix referencing is a hearing “palette-cleanser”.

To think of it in a more general sense, another analogy I think of is a dress code. A dress code is NOT a uniform. Everybody has room to express their personal taste and personality in clothing within the swathe of opportunity that a dress code offers. A dress code simply ensures that you don’t have people turning up to a top restaurant with board shorts, no shirt and thongs (meaning: flip-flops for those stateside who just fainted), simply because they have been comfortable wearing them all day.

It is the same with mixing: You’ve been listening to your mix for hours, and you’re comfortable with it… but then, when you sample a few songs from the same style, you realise you’ve been mixing the equivalent of a homeless person trying to get into a 5 star restaurant.

People get into referencing specific sounds and parts of the music… I think that is missing the point. Mix referencing is not about focussing on one thing, it’s about stepping back and seeing things as they really are.

I hope that helps!


Yep, it all makes perfect sense to me Andrew, cheers for the link, I’ll most definitely be checking it out. To be honest I don’t reference check my mixes nearly enough, and i guess it’s pretty obvious from the mix thus far.
The problem i’ve had in the past is I’ll take one reference and find myself trying to recreate/copy certain guitar or snare sounds as opposed to as you say ‘stepping back and seeing things as they really are’ i.e looking at the bigger picture.
Went back into the project for a look and noticed I was boosting both the main distorted guitars pretty hard at 5K to try and get them to poke out, so I’ve undone a lot of the guitar eq and will probably just start mixing from scratch until I get some decent balance again. My question is, should I attempt to get a ‘stable fader mix’ pre vocals then mix them in over top, or mix the vocals in from the start?
Cheers for the help mate,

I would try the stable fader mix first, and then try the alternative if you’re still having problems. Cheers.

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Good ideas, although I wanted to tell him if he turns everything up, he hasn’t done anything to the overall sound of his mix.
Maybe he does a similar tutorial where he starts comparing eq. Seems like pop music really likes a splashy, thin snare, where his snare has more body, (which I prefer) but it also requires you to evaluate what space the snare uses that might conflict with another instrument.
Pop snares often sound almost like a retuned hi hat now, which makes them easy to hear while being out of the way of everything else. Too sterile for my taste, but I also wouldn’t be using that type of reference. Using a reference to carve the eq properly requires great ear training to properly emulate the reference without losing the signature of the sound you hear in your head.

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There are some useful tools out there though. For example Isotope Ozone 9 has this thing called “Master Assistant” which uses AI to help point out the eq points where your mix might have too much or too little in comparison with what is generally expected for the genre. these are not necessarily “silver bullets”, but they do help you get in the ballpark.