Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mixing mixing poorly recorded tracks?

  • This topic has 7 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 3 years ago by Pete.
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    Paul Koester


      I'm curious if others have (experience with)/(advice for) working with really, really, really cruddy recordings.

      A group of us at my company play a bunch of cover tunes at our company's annual conference.    Due to COVID, the conference is going virtual this year, so the band decided to make some YouTube videos.  I'm dealing with a wide range of talent, ranging from a semi-pro musician all the way to people who pull out their instrument once a year to play at this conference.   Most of my performers don't have recording equipment, so I've settled to just work with the audio attached to the mp4 videos captured by their phones -- Yay!

      I was able to make due with what I had:   (Although in retrospect, due to the novelty of mixing real horns, I may have put them too high. 🙂 )

      A couple of the problems I faced/solutions I came up with:

      The singer's mic pre had a really bad buzz.   I ended up applying extremely tight param EQ in to dip out at least 24 dB in 5 different bands to cut out the buzz.   I bit of it remains, but I got as much as I could without negatively impacted her tone.

      The singer's mic was picking up a lot of reflection off the wall behind her, and that natural reverb did not sound particularly good.   I couldn't get rid of it, so I instead drowned her in plug-in reverb to mask the natural verb.

      One of the guitars was extremely (data) compressed.   The 3 minute video mp4 was under 20 MB, and I assume only a few MB of that is for the audio.   I had to EQ it like crazy to get rid of the compression artifacts.  Unfortunately, after that EQ the guitar sounds very cardboardy, but that's the best balance I could get.   I just ended up riding automation so that he was audible when he needed to be, and mostly inaudible the rest of the time.

      The drums were recorded on a single XY pair attached to a Zoom recorder.   I copied the drums into two separate stereo tracks (in retrospect, I could have just sent the one track to multiple busses).  On one copy I very aggressively hi-passed, in order to create a makeshift OH.  On the other copy I hi-shelf cut the overheads to give a makeshift kick/snare track.  I was then able to extract midi from the snare hits, but not kicks.  I kept the original snare, silenced the sampled snare, but still retained the reverb from the sample snare.

      In retrospect, I realized that if I layer several bandpass EQs on the kick/snare at around 100 Hz, then I can extract the midi triggers on the kick.  So if I had to do again, I'd probably sample replace/augment the kick.


      Guido tum Suden

        Hi Paul,
        I think the sound of the single instruments is good.
        I often did something similar with drums recordings with even more track copies. One for kick, one for snare, one for overheads and then blend everything together.
        In the case of your mix I find the band too quiet. The vocals and the brass are very dominant. But that may be, because I like tugged in vocal. 🙂


        Iain Thacker

          I think you've done a good job working round the issues you described, that's a solid job.

          I'd agree with Guido on the mix balance though - lacking in low end to me, bass and kick could do with a bit more substance and the guitars are just a fraction too low (or the vocals and brass are too high!).

          Paul Koester

            Thanks!    The was the first time we played with the horns.   I think I just carried away on their levels.

            I agree the kick could use more substance.  I've just gotten spoiled, since I usually work with an 8 mic setup on my home kit.  But alas, social distancing meant I just had to work with whatever my drummer could do at home.  Since I only had the single XY stereo of the drums,  anything I tried to beef up the kick just had negative consequences for the snare and cymbals.

            Mikkel Junker

              Hi Paul.

              I'm with Guido and Iain - Vocal and Horns a bit to high.

              Doning a lot of mixing for an old school soulband (my own) I really find hornsections to be tricky. The require a great deal of automation - or - coming to think of it - maybe just sidechained compression. They tug in beautifully in one section, but in the next they are way to loud. Horns are really dynamic instruments and needs to be kept in place or they will pop out of the mix.
              They sound good, though.

              Is there any change the drummer could record again, hitting way harder on his drums? I think that's the main issue - if not - then that's what it is.

              Again - I think you have done a very good job - especially bearing in mind, the material you had.

              AND: This is a Corona greeting youtube thing - it was not meant to be a studio recording - and it is really authentic. So let it be authentic 🙂

              Good job...




              Elliott Clarke

                Hey - new member here. This sounds great!

                There are little picky things I might have done differently, like compression/automation, maybe sitting everything in a subtle room verb for "glue" - but as said above, it's authentic to what it is; and it's a great result.

                Wouldn't have guessed it was all phone mics at all, sounds like you did a good job with your challenges

                Paul Koester

                  Thanks Elliott.  All the horns and the acoustic guitar were on phone mics.

                  Drums were recorded with a handheld Zoom.   That gave a decent sounding recording, but the single stereo tack just didn't leave many options for changing the blend of the kick, snare, cymbals.

                  The vocals and the telecaster's cab were recorded on real mics, and the bass was DI'd.

                  Listening back in retrospect, I think I got the horns too high in the mix.  I think I just got too excited.   It was the first time we played with horns so I really wanted to highlight them.


                    I think if you take your  'could do with a 3db boost at 5khz hat off and approach it as a piece of work, it's wonderful. I'd imagine your colleagues were blown away. Well played.

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