024 MixCoach Minute-Less is more in mixing too

Ever wondered how those classic rock records sound so big? Yet, no matter how much you add to your song, it just seems to get smaller? Check it out.


Raw Transcript:

Hey guys it’s Kevin with MixCoach. We’re here today for another episode of
the MixCoach Minute brought to you by MixCoach Member, an online mixing
community. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of great mixers there just
waiting to get to know you. Iron sharpening iron. In others words, they’re
making you better mixers every month that you’re there. Couldn’t be more
proud of the guys that are there. They’re really, really good mixers and
becoming better.

I was talking to a friend just a few moments ago and he was asking me if I
bought into the whole less is more mentality of mixing and I said,
absolutely. He gave me an example of John Bonham playing the drums, Led
Zeppelin and When the Levee Breaks. He said, those drums sound huge in the
beginning and then of course the other instruments come in, but I had a
couple of thoughts I wanted to share with you is I mix a lot of gospel
music and I mix a lot of country music. It seems like a lot of young
producers and sometimes experienced producers, they get into the cycle of
thinking that more is more and I wanted to explain why I don’t necessarily
agree with that. Sometimes you have to do that and sometimes you have to
keep adding stuff though sometimes it’s to cover up things.

Here’s an example. If you have or if you soloed the drums and you just
mixed drums, how huge could you make those drums sound? You would do
parallel compression that we’ve showed you, you might even trigger stuff,
you might push the room mics up, you might distort the room mics just a
little bit, but in the end you would make the drums sound huge. Which was
like in the very beginning of When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin. It was
just drums, verb, room sound it was, mic with the Glen John’s method I
think if my reading serves me right. The drums just sounded big. Even by
today’s standards those drums still are a benchmark for recording engineers
and mixers to strive to.

Here’s the thing. It was just drums. It was only drums. With that in mind,
the more you add to a mix, bass guitar which, okay, it helps drums.
Electric guitar that helps make everything sound good too, but the more you
add instruments to a mix and vocals and things that would take precedence
over a drum the less room you have for the drums.

My point is this. If you’re looking for big drum sounds, big guitar sounds,
big bass sounds, big vocal sounds, you probably need to limit it to that.
I’m not talking about limiting like a limiter. I’m talking about having
self-control, self-discipline and even discipline to take things out of a
mix to make them bigger because adding things to a mix doesn’t make it
bigger. It usually makes it smaller because everything is competing for
that space between those two speakers and if you had huge drum sounds
you’re not going to be able to have huge guitar sounds too more than likely
or huge vocal sounds or very loud vocals, very loud drums. This is when
people get into this cycle of trying to limit everything because they want
everything to sound big and yet there’s not enough sonic space between the
speakers to make it sound big.

My point is this and I want to do another post on this Monday and tell you
another thing I discovered from talking to my friend about this Led
Zeppelin song. My point is this though. If you want big mixes try going
small. Try going small rhythm sections with big sounds like, big sounding
drums, big sounding bass and big sounding guitars. Even then you’re going
to have to thin it out some because you’ve got several things competing,
but you won’t get huge sounds in addition to the drums, bass guitars, and

Like in gospel music you usually have those four plus you have stacked
electric guitars, stacked acoustic guitars, usually you have stacked
vocals, background vocals, strings, usually a Rhodes or a Wurlitzer sound
then you have brass and then you have verb and then everybody wonders why
it sounds small. It’s just really hard to make that stuff sound big. So
limit yourself by what you put on a track to make it sound bigger and let
me know if that works. Okay? Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the
MixCoach Minute and I’ll see you Monday. Bye.

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1 comment

  1. My initial understanding was that i thought i need to FILL the spaces as much as possible for it to sound tight and big. Then this theory made me think, and now i limit myself as much as possible. Also some of these acoustic covers with just one guitar or a piano plus vocals made me realize that more does not necessarily mean big!.. I guess this post confirms my new understanding.

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