006 MixCoach Minute-How to get Clarity in a mix

We have a great question on today’s MixCoach Minute.. how do you get more clarity in a mix? In this video I talk about “mixing for the moms” and phase… Getting phase right is more important than you think.

Also, I’ll talk about the “attack principle”.

All these things combined WILL give you clarity.

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Raw Transcript:

Hey guys. This is Kevin with MixCoach and this is episode six of the
MixCoach Minute brought to you by, as always, or for now MixCoach Member.
MixCoach Member is a great membership site for you to learn to mix and I
really would love for you to check it out. Check it out at
mixcoachmember.com. All right?

Anyway, let’s get right to the question. Let’s see. Carl F. Webber says,
“How do you get good separation in a mix? Snare, lead vocals, overall
clarity between everything. More mixing for the moms.” It looks like Carl
has heard me on MixCoach Member talk about mixing for the moms. And just
for you guys who don’t know I have a theory that when you’re balancing
everything if you can mix each instrument as if their mom is listening to
it. And make sure that they could, like the drummer or the bass player
anybody could point it out and say, “That’s me playing on that, Mom.” So at
least you can hear it. Anyway, it’s just a little theory I’ve got and it’s
the way I try to approach a mix. That’s what I call mixing for the moms.

But you wanted to know, Carl, about good separation in a mix. And I know
you’ve probably heard me talk about this before but to me the best way to
get the best clarity in a mix is to make sure that your phase issues are
not taking over the mix. So you’ll want to mix in mono as much as you can.

I mix in mono probably at least 80 percent of the time. What that does is
it makes sounds that are out of phase with each other on the left side and
the right side of the speakers, it really becomes apparent when you put it
in mono. So if you want clarity, what you have to do is correct the phase
while it’s in mono. That’s the best way to hear it.

Sometimes you can do it by not using one side. If it’s a stereo sound and
you’re not getting clarity from it, sometimes you make it mono. Like
sometimes, for an example, room mics. Sometimes you don’t need two room
mics to make it stereo and it takes away from the definition of the drums,
the clarity of the drums. Sometimes keyboard players will track like a
Wurlitzer. I’m sitting here looking at my Wurlitzer. Sometimes they’ll
track Wurlitzer in stereo. Wurlitzer’s are mono, almost always mono. And
things like this.

You make better decisions when you listen to it in mono. Same thing with
balance. A lot of times small phase issues will make you not make something
loud enough because it’s wide and anytime something is wide in your ears or
in your headphones it makes them loud enough usually because it brings a
lot of attention to themselves. A very wide track will [make] you hear it
first.

So when it’s in mono, you disregard that. And you mix it, you balance it
the way it should. And when you put it back in stereo it becomes wide again
then you can decide what to do with it then which is usually narrow it up.
A couple of days ago I talked out stereo widening tools and you know that’s
one of the reasons I don’t use them a lot is because it messes with my
ears. And in mono it kind of takes away from the clarity.

So you were asking about and specifically you were asking about separation
in a mix. Again, phase is your best friend or things being in phase and a
lot of times you can zoom into a WAV file, nudge the WAV file to where it’s
in phase or to where it sounds obviously better when you flip one side in
phase or out of phase, when it’s obviously better one way or the other in
mono. That’s the way you’re going to be able to check and see about the
overall mix.

Snare, same thing. You’d be, more often than not, snare drums are out of
phase with the overheads. And when they are, they sound a little thin in
mono. You can’t really hear it in stereo. But in mono the worst case
scenario of a mix you will definitely hear it. That adds definition. It
adds a little low end punch to it one way or the other. Sometimes it’s in
phase. It’ll be pretty obvious.

You ask about lead vocals. Lead vocals is one of those things that you
usually won’t run into a phase problem with that but you can find a lot of
clarity usually with a concept that I call the attack principle. And that’s
setting up your compressor to where just the beginnings of the words pop
through the mix and not the rest of the word. Or not the rest of the word,
but the beginnings of the word will bring clarity to the vocalist.

Another thing you can do is add a little top end sheen which I do usually
with the Magg M-A-G EQ. I think that’s about maybe $100, $150 EQ. It adds
air but you can also do it with the SSL EQ too by running the frequency all
the way up. I think it goes to 17 or 18 kilohertz. You can run up just a
little bit of that until you hear some air in the vocal. And a lot of times
it has to do with how good of a mic it is that the vocal’s recorded on.

Let’s see. “Overall clarity between everything.” I think, Carl, if you will
do that, listen in mono and then just anything that has more than one track
on it, even bass is one track. A lot of times you can flip the phase of a
bass against the kick and you will notice an obvious change in punch and
clarity. So phase is your best friend when you’re trying to get clarity out
of a mix. Okay?

I hope this helps. I hope this leads you down the right path and thanks for
asking such a good question and hopefully you guys can get some benefit out
of that. So, we’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.

Click HERE to watch the next episode of the MixCoach Minute!

MixCoach, Mixing for the Moms, Phase

2 comments

  1. Nice one Kevin! Love it all, correcting phase, mixing in
    mono and the attack principle (by the way, since learning it here
    months ago, use with great success!) All nice little “gems” of mix
    wisdom.

  2. Hello Kevin, I was wondering what plugin you use to Mix in mono, I use the S1 Imager. I think I’ve seen you use the iZotope 4 or 5. am I right.

    thanks I was just courious

    Bill

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