Getting things to sound better

Fellow Renoisers, I’m stuck in a rut. I don’t know if it’s my mixing, sound design or what, but I’m having trouble getting things to sound “good”. I’m having a hard time getting things to sound wide without making them sound thin, getting my drums to have a certian amount of pop and breath in the high end, my basses to feel warm and wide without being muddy or driven, etc. I’ve also been doing live sampleing, and even with good recordings, although they’ve been de-noised, they don’t seem as present and forward in the mix as I’d like them to be.

I’ve just gotten in this habit of processing and processing and processing and at the end of the day it ends up sounding thin or distorted or overcompressed or cheap or muddy or piercing. I don’t know what I should be practicing or if I’m doing something wrong that is getting me poor results. I just end up tiring my ears out struggling with sounds that may or may not even be good enough to process into something good. I feel like I’m pouring my energy into the wrong things, but I don’t have a direction on where to go to fix what I have wrong.

Here’s a couple of examples to describe what I’m aiming for if it helps:

Koan Sound and Asa ft. Koo - This Time Around (and the rest of the Santuary EP)

Manuella Blackburn - Switched On

I’ve just been tearing my hair out, so if anyone has any ideas…

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I’d say it’s mostly about investing time. No matter how hard you try, it takes a good amount of time/experience until you can hear and judge sounds for what they are.

You could also be overdoing things. For me, I can almost never make a shit sound good in the mix so I just try to get the best sounds I can. And frankly I’ve realized, the less mixing I do, the better my mixes become :stuck_out_tongue:

So you gotta keep trying without being hard on yourself. Eventually things start to make sense.

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I’ve learned a number of useful things from the free videos available from

Even if you don’t care for the music used in the demos (not my taste, really) the principles apply.

There are a few observations (from ether my own mistakes or from watching videos) that (I think) helped my music:

Do not fuss over a single track or instrument. What will matter is the final sound of all the instruments together. I used to over-work each instrument (drums, bass, etc.) to get each to sound rich and full and wonderful and the end result was that they would crowd each other, and all the subtle perfection I thought I had was buried n murk.

Try to slot each instrument into a range and position. Let one or two instrument live in the bass zone, another in the mid-range zone, and others in the “bright” zone. (Think about why drums/bass/guitar music generally works so well; each instrument tends to occupy its own tonal and pitch zone). Use stereo separation to help make the instruments distinct.

Try mixing in mono. (I stick a stereo enhancing device on master and set it to mono for this. Don’t forget to uncheck it when done!)

Try mixing at low volume.

Listen to the music on different speakers.

Let a piece sit for a while then go back and listen with fresh ears.

Good luck, and be proud that you’re making stuff!

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For the bass, it really does help to open a tune file in Renoise and playback it, while looking at the Master Spectrum (with these settings: peak fall instant, 16384 samples). Now you can see what’s going on in the low end, and with the instant fall you can also judge how the bass volume changes in time. Because the scaling is logarithmic, every change in bass note or frequency should be immediately obvious. In the lowest end 10HZ difference means everything. I tend to do that with songs which have interesting or unique bass that I can’t rellay get close to.

And to have more control over bass with less muddiness, try sublayering your bass with simple sine wave and then shift the main bass an octave higher (The sine wave should occupy primarily the octaves under C2). When balanced right, this can help create this shake-the-ground powerful yet clean bottom end. I don’t recommend to balance this on your headphones, though, as it will always sound way different on your speakers. It, however, needs some work to make the result balanced without losing some fatness or sounding incompatible to each other, when I started implementing this into my basses (very recently), it made them sound worse at first.

Thin instruments usually mean overdone EQ (or they were thin in the first place), or compression. Return back and remove most of the EQ moves and soften the comp settings to see if it sounds better. Then you are at risk of clashing instruments together, but it can be the case they will always clash. Not all sounds can go well together. If you still want to keep all in your song, try rearranging it so the more competing ones play at different times. In general, you want to create conrast in your music, so when you have some huge and complex lead with long reverb, you should complement it with sounds that are more in the center. And the same, if you have some fast-attack plucks coming, they should be accompained with softer sounds with longer attack.

Hope this helps a little.

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You could try to use the 96 band EQ doofer (downloads) to make notes pop out and introduce new dimensions to the sound. If you invest some time experimenting with this thing i think you’ll be surprised how powerful this thing can be.

Raise the volume of some notes to make them pop out and lower some to make room for other sounds. It’s time consuming to get everything right, but it works.

Use it together with the Spectrum Analyzer where you can drag your mouse over it to see which note the specific frequenzy is closest to. If your tracks peaks too much on specific frequenzies you can lower those frequenzies and at the same time raise the same note at different octaves, also adding some harmonic notes that fits the chords you are using in the track.

Another more advanced technique would be to automate different instances of the doofer with a custom key controlled envelope, turning on and off EQ doofers by the note being played. Let’s say you have 3 chords in your song, now “tune” one doofer for each chord. The result can almost give you a “drop” feeling.

Also remember, don’t underestimate the effect each slider has, even though you don’t hear much change while moving a single slider it may have a dramatic effect on the end result.

Hi there.

You strive to achieve something like the first example? I don’t really like this style of mixdown, but gave a listen anyway. It’s very broad stereo impression, and bass seems almost seperated into a clean subzone. Others have already given good tips. Now I believe the effects in the first video/tune base on some “stereo tricks”, i.e. delayed versions of the stuff positioned on the other side in a way that won’t make the echo effect obvious, or mixing different similliar sounds, also positioned differently. Also I think I can hear some sound position depth tricks making certain frequencies/sounds seem less direct but positioned somewhere (very subtle to notice, but if you know what you’re looking for you might hear it with headphones) - maybe they’ve use some $$$ spatializing plugins and real dope reverb plugs, or bandselective exciting and stuff for that. Dunno. But I don’t have that much experience yet, it’s just tips and guesses.

Also, want something “fat/broad” sounding? Learn from heavy metal guys, same riff played 3 times, and positioned left-middle-right, with clever eqing of each! With synthetical stuff you’ll have to produce the irregularities of a handplayed guitar riff some way else, i.e. a softsynth with no phase retriggering, subtly different modulations, different distortions added for each, chorus is rather weak at making such effects organig, but can add irregularities expecially before (even subtle) distortion, etc. - I name this example as you seem to be impressed by the stereo works in the piece. Lots of experimenting is necessary though, to get the effects subtle enough to do the right thing but not kill everything else in the mix. It’s helpful to know what they sound like when really overdone, to get Ideas on how these techniques work an how they’re percieved when listening.

Thanks for your input guys, it means a lot, especially Nor Tamena’s advice about the spectrum settings. I’ll be posting a bunch of dumb stuff soon.

I agree with Neurogami’s advice re: not spending too much time on making every part sound good independently. You really have to prioritise. For example, if you’ve got a big bass synth and a more mid-range pad, and the song’s really driven by the bassline, you might have to cut out a surprising amount of low-mids from the pad for the bass to dominate as you’d like it to. Even getting both bass and kick to sound ‘magnificent’ is nigh-on impossible, so decide which is more important, spend your time tweaking that, and settle for ‘adequate’ for the other.

My experience with bass sounds: people try to add too much under 80hz (for what they’re trying to do). It takes up a lot of headroom, and only people listening in clubs or on nice headphones will ever hear it. Trust me, most people can’t actually distinguish bass from low-mids; they’ll hear a dubstep synth coming out of a laptop speaker, nothing under 250hz is audible, and they’ll say ‘I love this, it’s so bassy!’ If you’re old-fashioned and want nice low bass regardless, rather than the distorted low-midrange that the average listener takes for bass these days, do like Nor Tamena said and use a clean sine. You can get a way with a little bit of detuning to add texture to it, but any actual distortion will push the frequency range of the signal upwards.

Consider the value of cutting parts out. You might have programmed an incredible atmospheric synth pad, and you’re tempted to use it the whole way through the song because it sounds so good. You probably shouldn’t; use it for one verse, or a bridge, or to kick the last chorus up a notch. As you’re mixing, you probably find that you create some cool layers of effects, some unexpected chords, etc; record them as tracks, and have them come in and out for little guest appearances at a low volume. The average listener will never consciously notice, but they’ll find the song more compelling nevertheless because it keeps evolving. Likewise, automate the fuck out of everything. Anything other than the kick and the bass are fair game to be turned down at any time, to the benefit of whatever part is in the lead role at that point. Remember that when it’s mastered, the compression will make everything louder, so unless you’re brutal about cutting or turning right down whatever part is not most essential at any given point in the song, it will sound mushy.

I highly recommend Mike Senior’s book Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. It’s probably the most useful bit of ‘equipment’ I’ve ever invested in; a million times more useful than any new synth or plug-in. I learnt a lot going through some mixes step-by-step with that book; he’s the one who hammered home to me the value of automating things carefully, a time-consuming process but one that probably made more difference to my mixing than any other single ‘tip’.

See Point Blank lessons on utube

how Emre K, invest time, learn to listen, etc. watch lessons on utube.

I highly recommend Mike Senior’s book Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. It’s probably the most useful bit of ‘equipment’ I’ve ever invested in; a million times more useful than any new synth or plug-in. I learnt a lot going through some mixes step-by-step with that book; he’s the one who hammered home to me the value of automating things carefully, a time-consuming process but one that probably made more difference to my mixing than any other single ‘tip’.

That book looks really good, and has solid positive reviews from variousreputablesources. Thanks for suggesting it.

Another vote for Mike Senior’s book, Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio – I should dig that out again.

Some of the best tips I’ve learned are:

  • Don’t try and get aparticular part/track in the arrangement/mix to gel by processing the hell out of it. Go back to the source (re-record it) or the arrangement (change the arrangement) and get all your elements to fit together without any processing at all.
  • Generally the less processing you can get away with, the better the mix will sound
  • As mentioned above, don’t try and make every sound as fat as possible in isolation from theother tracks.
  • Don’t get hung up on recording every single sound separately. Your mixing job will be much easier if you have 6 tracks rather than 36 – this also means you have to get things sounding good at the arrangement stage.

Not that I always follow my own advice . . . :huh: