Thread: Snake biting its tail

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  1. #1
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    Default Snake biting its tail

    When I mix I often have a problem. I know it and I can give myself a reminder and avoid it. But why it keeps coming back (I know why, but bear with me for a second)?
    The problem is I often have kick and snare too low. I kept thinking about it and what I thought is it's because of the music I listened too.
    I became a music fan in the early to mid '90s, but it was not until the late '90s early '00s when I really started getting records, and the music I listened mostly was contemporary alternative and metal. And you know -- pretty much everything was brickwalled. Which in effect removes the impact of the drums to a great extent.
    So I'm used to that sound, meaning when I balance the drums, I keep striving to the same relative level BUT that is without brickwall.
    And then I bump the level so that band feels it matches what is considered "commercial" and the impact of the drums is diminished again. So I have to readjust.
    I have to note that on older records drums often sound almost too present to my taste.
    Now, my problems are my problems and it wouldn't be worth mentioning especially as I know the solution.
    But I notice same thing coming in a different situations and in many levels -- i.e. people get used to things which are not "right".
    There was a report about younger people preferring sound of .mp3s to .wav source.
    And what really caused me post is that I heard a song recently, and it was a nice pop song, but I felt there was something wrong with it. I realized it didn't make me want to move! There was no groove in the song -- it just flowed with no tension, yet the tempo and arrangement definitely implied it was geared to be something danceable (in a way a good rock'n'roll is).
    Where I am aiming is this. I think the danger of music production technologies like brickwall limiting, autotune and beat-detective is in creating certain expectations. I.e. drummers would not dare to groove, singers would stay away from vibrato and note bending etc.
    I do think this secondary effect is far worse.
    Like when a track with a proper drum impact is brickwalled some of this impact is still there, when a grooving drummer is quantized it makes the performance robotic but some of the feel is still there. When a drummer sound like a robot from the start, quantizing removes last drops of humanness. Same with the singers.
    And we are left with music with no impact.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  2. #2
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I can't listen to a lot of modern popular music that sounds like it's being performed by robots. Not only do I not like it, but most of it actually pisses me off. I thought it was just me getting old, but I see you started nearly two decades after I did.
    "I'd say ALWAYS think of yourself as the listener!" - Bob Olhsson
  3. #3
    Plays in Winger cover band Enjoys scratching self too much
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I can't listen to a lot of modern popular music that sounds like it's being performed by robots. Not only do I not like it, but most of it actually pisses me off. I thought it was just me getting old, but I see you started nearly two decades after I did.
    I'm with you man. It gets aggravating, and unless 31 is old, it isn't you.

    the stuff on the radio is, for me, predictable sounding, if that makes any sense. Not only that, but it seems like every song i hear is trying to mimic the last one, which makes for a pretty boring experience. Right down to sounds, mix/production, arrangement, etc. Its set a precedent for a format, wherein if you don't meet the criteria, you don't get played. Just my opinion, but its something Ive noticed over the last little...long while.

    So I'm used to that sound, meaning when I balance the drums, I keep striving to the same relative level BUT that is without brickwall.
    And then I bump the level so that band feels it matches what is considered "commercial" and the impact of the drums is diminished again. So I have to readjust.
    interesting you pointed that out, because I also got into really 'listening' around the same time you did. i may have been listening for more of the guitar parts than anything else, but it soon turned into "how did they make it sound like that".

    I think once I got into recording, the opposite was true for me regarding kick/snare balance in a mix. I later got into stuff where the kick/snare really punched, and I always tried to get that, but my mixes tended to be pretty quiet as a result.

    the only thing I've found helpful is listening to records in mono on the monitors. I know its probably been said here before, but its certainly helped me understand a bit better about how commercially released material 'punches' in that area.

    as for the 'robotizing' of music, i completely agree. Its a bit of a chicken/egg situation. i don't know what started it; a band asking for it, or a company deciding that was the only way to gain exposure. either way, its destructive to any song to my ears, no matter any other factors. I did have a friend once who recorded and mixed professionally (probably still does, I'm certain I can still hear stuff he's doing) who once said "fuck them. if they're spending all my time and they still can't sing/play in time or in tune, they're getting fixed". wonder if thats the real root of the problem; peoples time and effort isn't valued.
  4. #4
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    HAH!

    You guys sound like ME!

    BTW, here's something interesting and,. I think, related, that I came across on another forum:

    http://www.chartattack.com/news/2016...me-in-history/
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  5. #5
    Surfing the net at work every day! Drives a Zamboni to work
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I would be one of those luddites that purchases all music as physical media though that is largely because I prefer to have the full resolution product. iTunes at 320 or streaming/XM is fine for casual listening, but inadequate for critical listening on my system. Hell I can tell a difference between 320 AAC, and 16/44.1 on a lot of stuff through a FM transmitter with my iPod. It's subtle, but it's there.

    Combine that with the resurgence of vinyl with audiophile hipsters, and modern "perfected" production, and it's no surprise catalog sales are up. Most modern music flat out sucks both in performance, and sound quality. It can't even compete with worn vinyl on a mediocre turntable in an untreated room.

    Which BTW is how I listened to stuff in the early days. That, and broadcast FM which is now a vast commercial wasteland.
    "I'd say ALWAYS think of yourself as the listener!" - Bob Olhsson
  6. #6
    Plays in Winger cover band Enjoys scratching self too much
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    thanks for the article, john! good to see that trend, even though its been seemingly pigeon-holed as a 'hipster trend' in some ways. Ive wanted a decent turntable for quite a while just to do exactly that; go find albums I used to own on cassette or cd that are available on vinyl.

    kinda the same thing with speakers too, i suppose. Unless someone has heard anything better than the typical consumer system/boombox, they'd be hard pressed to change their mind. I can't count the number of people I've caught just rocking out to their mad beats on their iPhone speaker.

    hopefully the audiophile geeks beat out the iPhone rockers, cause if they don't, we'll all be listening to music made by toontracks soon enough. at that point, it won't matter what you listen through.
  7. #7
    Frustrated Chick Rock singer...now doing jazz standards poorly! Never made a record...music forum mod!
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    When I mix I often have a problem. I know it and I can give myself a reminder and avoid it.....
    Seems to me you need to 1. learn to loudness processing proof your mixes and 2. reference to music that is mixed/mastered to your taste.

    Concerning number 2, my big issue is apparently a habitually pusillanimous approach to dealing with low mid build up. The problem is not my room/monitoring because the issue has persisted throughout several completely different monitoring situations over a solid decade. I have slowly but surely learned to recalibrate my ears with a quick reference when I become a little too used to the way my mix in progress is sounding.

    Number 1 is a stickier subject, and I hesitate to advise based upon my own solutions, because my way may not be the best way, and it's certainly not the quickest - plus there are some serious heavy hitters here who may yet weigh in. Effective 2 buss compression is certainly one important aspect. Minimizing non useful amplitude spikes that result in holes in your mix post loudness processing is another. Yet another has to do with creating dynamic drama that will survive loudness processing. The experimentation in the latter regard never ends for me.
  8. #8
    Plays in Winger cover band Enjoys scratching self too much
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    ... Yet another has to do with creating dynamic drama that will survive loudness processing. The experimentation in the latter regard never ends for me.
    ditto for me. and i wonder if all this 'loudness processing' has to do with more about the lack of volume control on computers, or just people competing to win 'loudest record ever'.

    If i get a mix sounding right, i have an internal struggle about weather or not to 'make it hotter/louder' to meet the needs of the end-user who is using iPods/computers to listen back. More often then not, I'm just distorting things.

    i often wonder if this whole 'loudness' thing was amplified by the broad use of iPods and the like. Seems there are regulations about volume levels and their 'damaging effects'. We've all be regulated by our governments to use loudness processing to compensate for a lack of a volume knob. its bullshit. but its for our own safety, right?
  9. #9
    Surfing the net at work every day! Drives a Zamboni to work
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    iPods are much more capable than a lot of modern mixes. I've found that program that is mastered at reasonable levels sounds better on an iPod or any other cheap audio gear.

    Remember you can always squash it more, but you can't squash it less.
    "I'd say ALWAYS think of yourself as the listener!" - Bob Olhsson
  10. #10
    Highway to Hell is for Children Area 51 gardener
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    Seems to me you need to 1. learn to loudness processing proof your mixes and 2. reference to music that is mixed/mastered to your taste.
    But to me it's actually 2 which creates a problem. As I said my taste is largely shaped by the mixes from mid-'90s to mid-'00s, and many of them squashed. It's not that I like distortion or prefer it, quite contrary, but in effect the result of this squashing is drums being "tamer". I can compensate for it, and over time it seems to improve, but the whole cycle of getting used to the results of a particular technology and then subconsciously trying to match a particular effect hurts music in many ways.
    When in doubt, mumble!

    EVERYTHING SOUNDS LIKE SHIT IF YA LISTEN LONG AND HARD ENOUGH.
  11. #11
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    The projection of the drums is something my ME is very conscious of, and something we've discussed at length. Fortunately, he has several heavyweight clients who are real sticklers about it.

    otek
    "Tube color is not the 'thing'. Why would the most linear amplifying device have a color?" - Jonte Knif
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I have to wonder if mixing drums in mono would eliminate some of this 'impact' margin-of-error. I wrestle with it, too, always after I'm happy with the mix pre-loudness processing.

    It gets to the point where I'm wondering if there's any reason to pursue loudness at all, given that I'll never do it myself for a real release. I seem spend an inordinate amount of time getting the mix to SLAM after I've already got it sounding good. This probably has to do with growing up listening to the same 90's and early 00's releases and just not feeling like mine are 'big' enough. It's not hard to get out of that mindset, but it's really hard to stay ​out of it.
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    Checking in mono is a good idea.

    I was recently mixing tracks labeled drums L & drums R

    They were somewhat problematic. I EQ'd them and parallel compressed them until they started sounding a lot better.

    I also duped them and added extreme EQ to separate out the snare and kick enough to use Slate Trigger but I couldn't really add much snare and kick to pre-mixed drums.

    Then I reversed polarity on one of the drums tracks and I suddenly got a lot of low end.

    So, I figured, they must have been out of phase.

    Then I checked the mix in mono (drums tracks soloed, Slate tracks muted). The drums almost disappeared

    I un-reversed the phase of the phase-reversed drum track, and now it sounded full, but not as much low end.

    But lower in perceived amplitude? So I turned up the drums bus.

    Now it's "fine" Actually the detail in the toms came back, because the phase reversal had screwed with the EQing I'd done to bring them out. Oh, yes, I tried EQing the one phase reversed track, to no avail.

    So...

    What just happened?
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I seem spend an inordinate amount of time getting the mix to SLAM after I've already got it sounding good. This probably has to do with growing up listening to the same 90's and early 00's releases and just not feeling like mine are 'big' enough. It's not hard to get out of that mindset, but it's really hard to stay ​out of it.
    I grew up earlier than you, but I've spent some time recently trying to find the best reference material for original hard Rock, and honestly, I like the early '90s.

    I thought that, in some ways, albums like Nirvana's "Nevermind" album, Sound garden's "Superunknown" are a sonic improvement to the Rock I grew up with. Meaning, more perceived impact, IMO.

    You need a target for whatever the goal is. An unrealistic target is better than none if it will get you moving.

    I listen to a wide range of music, and just within the Rock genre (just... ) there are a wide variety of acceptable levels of any sound source.

    One main goal I have is to get the midrange and lower frequencies to "gel" at a pelvic level without adding cellos, IYKWIM
    Man! You have GOT to try a hit of this RANGE SUNSHINE!

    IMTBO = In My Thoroughly Biased Opinion
    CMIIW = Correct Me If I'm Wrong
    Never underestimate the amount of contempt a failed musician has for those of us who are still trying.
    If the party's good enough, you can actually suck to a remarkable degree.

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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    Pop music has never been about anything other than balls felt at the pelvic level. The CD allowed us to pile more low end on than vinyl did although tone arm resonances enhance the low end of vinyl in a cool way.

    What's amazing to me are the handful of singers like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Aretha Franklin who have more balls in their voice than almost any bass player or drummer can deliver.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    ...although tone arm resonances enhance the low end of vinyl in a cool way.
    Tell me about it. I have a Formula IV…

    What's amazing to me are the handful of singers like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Aretha Franklin who have more balls in their voice than almost any bass player or drummer can deliver.
    I'm thinking that other than their vocal character, this must also have something to do with their control of dynamics. A singer that can produce consistent dynamics allows the mixer to feature their voices at loud levels with little to no compression. A couple of Janis Ian's albums feature loud vocals that seem to be almost entirely without dynamics processing.

    And of course I'd like to mention Barry White here, too…


    otek
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    A lot of it is phrasing. Vowels are notes while consonants are noise.
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    A lot of it is phrasing. Vowels are notes while consonants are noise.

    A very good point. An associated aspect of that is as consonants tend to be "noise" they are often percussive in nature whereas vowels are liquid.
    http://www.johnnyoklahoma.com/

    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    Everything is some mixture of awesome and suck. We simply want the awesome to be highlighted sufficiently that it distracts listeners from the suck.
    Originally Posted by Bob Ohlsson
    The appropriate role for science is the study of observed phenomena to gain an understanding. It is not dictating what people ought or ought not to be observing.
    Hey, if I'm Grumpy, where the hell is Snow White????
  19. #19
    Former burger flipper turned Alshi expert Injured playing co-ed dodgeball
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    A lot of it is phrasing. Vowels are notes while consonants are noise.
    However, they are the noise that actually contains the information. Write out a sentence with it's vowels removed, and you can usually figure it out. Remove the consonants, and its just a blob.

    Intelligibility requires consonants.
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Snake biting its tail

    I'm not saying don't articulate consonants. Just don't cover them up with drums.
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