The Day I Killed My Mix (And How To Avoid My Mistake)

| Audio Example, Mixing, My Music, Plugins, Pro Tools, Tips, Video

Sometimes we learn best from our failures. Today I hope you learn from one of mine.

I recently took a song that should have been a good mix and I killed it. I squeezed every ounce of musicality out of that sucker as possible – and it drives me nuts.

So last week I took a couple of hours out of my day to remix the same song – but this time with only stock plugins. The result was night and day.

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131 Responses to “The Day I Killed My Mix (And How To Avoid My Mistake)”

    • DC

      I like the 2nd one better .
      It’s open and in your face .
      It’s more musical to me .
      It all comes down to your preference.
      But I think it’s humbling you let us see you make mistakes and question yourself . Most pros don’t . Then you think they always get it right .

      Reply
    • Bazini

      Graham…dude, nice one for being honest. I personally felt that the vocal in the ‘killed mix’ was more comfortable in the verse. Overall, I did prefer the way the kick and snare cut through in the newer mix. Also, I liked some of the brashness of the guitars in the ‘killed mix’. However, hearing that lead guitar stand out in the ‘re-mix’ was needed for my ears. Hope that helps just trying to return the thanks.

      Keep posting…

      Reply
    • Blissful Sample

      Hey Graham,

      I like the remix better cause I believe that it sound more open less pushy and more balanced .
      You said that you hear the dynamivs of the kick and snare better, I agree.
      But since I’m not that experienced/skilled yet in mixing.
      I don’t really get the night and day, I would say the killed mix also sounds good only a little fatterand a liiiiiiitle less balanced.

      Bless

      Reply
  1. Bruno

    I actually liked the first mix better. Yes, the drums are popping more on the second mix, but the first mix has more energy and feels more like a rock song to me.

    Reply
  2. Grayson Peddie

    Your kick and snare drums came out a lot nicer in the remix than the killed mix. One thing I noticed is that your killed mix has a dynamic range of DR6. I’ve used dr14_tmeter for measuring dynamic range of audio files.
    https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=132896

    With your remixed version, it seems to me that dynamic range is improved when I look at the waveform, but I would like to use that tool I have to measure your remixed version.

    One thing I’m thinking Graham is if you don’t trim off the peaks when you are using a limiter, your song could have a DR8 or better.

    My song for the one-song-one-month challenge has a dynamic range of DR14, probably because my song is very dynamic.

    Here is my song for others to listen and download:
    http://www.nimbitmusic.com/graysonpeddie/#carfreevillage.2

    What I did for my song is I use a limiter to bring down the threshold, watch for gain reduction, and dial it back up to the point that there’s no gain reduction at all. That’s the reason why I prefer quality over loudness. I’m setting the trend of using the limiter conservatively myself.

    I would encourage everyone to try them out by creating two versions of the song: one song that trims off 3dB of peaks and one song with no gain reduction that does not trim off peaks and compare the difference. Here’s one YouTube video to illustrate:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

    Reply
  3. Alex

    Second mix is certainly clearer but the vocals sound better on the first. Too much reverb on the remix I feel so they sit better in the first mix.

    Reply
  4. Yair Bashan

    Well Graham, I liked the killed mix better… It has more energy and attack, it’s brighter (people love brighter mixes), and I just love the crispy guitars!!! BUT, the drums on the remix are just amazing! I just love their weight ! (also heard the effect on the VOX)
    I’ve been listening to this song a lot since the challenge, so it is possible my ears got used to the killed mix and to it’s energy haha! (it really is a rocking mix!!!)
    Also I gotta ask:
    You basically say you where in a rush and that it has diverted you from the big wins of mixing.
    BUT, you are also an advocate of setting timers and Parkinson’s law.
    Where is the line? It is a thin line isn’t it?

    Reply
  5. Mark Castellanos

    Hey Graham!

    This is a very “subjective thing”, because I know a lot of people who like to death horrible wounding mixes and they say those mixes are better; as a listener in my personal taste I really agree with you second mix sounds more musical, in the end the best selling records of all times have been those with more dynamic range, more articulation and musicality, and I think the second mix has that, and I really like the clarity, depth, width, separation, overall balance and warmth of the second, and I don´t mean the first one is a bad mix, I bought it from your site and I really enjoyed it, but comparing between both I choose the second.

    By the way, would be posible to download the second version of your mix?

    Thanks for sharing every thing with us Graham! Blessings!

    Reply
    • Grayson Peddie

      I would also like to download the second version of the mix as well and compare the dynamic range.. I used an application called dr14_tmeter (https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=132896) and the first version of the song has a dynamic range of DR6. The second waveform looks to be a little better than the first, but I can’t judge the look until I use dr14_tmeter to compute the dynamic range of the remixed song.

      Reply
  6. Justin

    I think (for what it’s worth) that I preferred the direction of the ‘killed mix’, only that the execution went awry and it got a bit too squashed. The new mix sounds a bit less modern maybe a bit more indie sounding, but that’s okay too. Both sounds are valid I’d say….it’s a question of taste. I think the drum sound fits the original mix better, since those samples are so punchy and in-your-face to begin with.

    FWIW, I wouldn’t beat yourself up over this. You always talk about the need for deadlines and the 80/20 rule (which is great advice), and here’s a case where you made the best mix you could with the deadline you had. It didn’t turn out exactly how you wanted, but you’ll learn from the mistake, and best of all, we get to learn from it too.

    2 quick questions: has the new mix been run through the same mastering chain as the original? And then, what made you decide to remix from scratch rather than just to backpedal and try to remove some of the excessive processing from the first mix?

    Reply
    • Graham

      It has not been run through the same mastering chain. Just stock plugins.

      No real reason to start from scratch other than I wanted to see what would happen.

      Reply
  7. Mike heslop

    I too actually preferred the killed mix, it seemed wider and more vibrant. Maybe it’s because I’m a guitarist and tend to focus more on that. Drums dos sound better in the remix though.

    Reply
  8. Luã Linhares

    I prefer the Remix, specially the guitar sound that, as you said, sounds more ‘musical’. But the vocals on the Remix feels a bit ‘desconnected’, maybe too loud in my opinion. In the Killed Mix the vocals sounds more in context.

    Reply
  9. Oz

    I like this part from the first and that part from the second so take them both and mix them together and that will be what I like :-)…..
    The lesson is…..print it, and walk away or it never ends.

    Reply
  10. Guy

    My ears crave a blend of the two actually. I like the open musicality of the remix, but I like the compressed “radio” sound of the killed mix. Also, the killed mix sounds like it has a bit wider sound stage.

    Reply
  11. fuzzbox

    Hi Graham,
    As other have said, I like the guitars in the first mix and the drums in the second mix. As you say, your ears adapt!

    Keep up the good work dude!

    Reply
  12. Howard

    I think the vocal in the so called killed mix works better for the song . The second mix vocal sounds detached from the music and thats because the reverb does not do the vocals justice.. The drums and guitars in the new mix are on point. I preferred the chorus of killed mix; the elements work best there .

    Reply
  13. Mikolaj

    It does happen to me, and I did learn from my mistakes that it just needs to sound good, even thought it might sound boring after a while of mixing. And I actually have to say thanks for that great teaching vid you did about gain staging. Nowadays it’s like 70% of my mixes( something like 60% is arrangement)! And it sounds badass and my clients love it!

    I agree with you that remix sounds better, with some bits sounding cool in killed mix. On my Sony 7509hd headphones the brightness of killed mix was making me cringe thought.

    Suggestion: Why not to automate the remix to get those moments back in to the remix? Would suggest also brainworx saturator ( or similar ) on stereo buss, and you’ll get that extra bit of crunch.

    Regards
    Miko

    Reply
  14. Pete M

    At first, I liked the killed mix better. But getting more and more into the song, I started to notice little details in the remix, that were squeezed out in the killed mix. And, although the remix does sound a little less brighter than the original one, I think it will stand the test of time better, because of the wider dynamic range and variety of sounds you can actually hear.
    The drums definately sound better in the blue mix.

    Have a wonderfull day.

    Reply
  15. Tryggvasson

    I like the second mix more: it has more depth, it’s not as flat, which is almost a rule with digital mixing that does not intently acknowledge and solve that problem in the process, the vocals sit on top of everything and dettach themselves from the background.
    On the down size, I would have kept a little more high mid contour on the harmony guitars (maybe around 1,6-2 K), and would have made the reverb a little less obvious.
    The second one sounds more natural and less digital. The thing is, I think, with new generations, that they don’t even remember what ‘natural’ sounds like (I mean a guitar and real amp, for instance), and they are used to flat, digital sound to the extent that it doesn’t even bother them anymore.
    I love the fact that you let some more low-mids in there, which is the juice of any sound, and which is not something you usually do, from what I’ve seen, even though it might seem a liiiiitle bit muddy (especially the picked guitar). I don’t remember which famous mixer said something like ‘all that glorified warmth is, in the end, only mud’. I see it exactly conversely. All that dreaded mud is, in the end, the warmth, roundness and depth of a mix. Some of the best records in the world are really muddy, if you think about it – U2, Pink Floyd, Sabbath, list goes on. i guess, in the end, it’s just a matter of balance – as is everything in life. We live in an era where mixing is seen as pretty much a stock, technical, discipline. We like saying gorgeous things like ‘sculpting sounds’, and ‘painting with sound’, but that very rarely happens. Instead of giving the song and instruments tonal identities and BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS – that’s it, very important – most people seem to just mechanichally apply considerations like ‘big’, and ‘punchy’ and ‘fat’. Sure, those are important, but those are the basics, not the complete work, and most mixes stop there – end even destroy sonic identity and beauty for that. It’s turning mixing into a completely technical endeavour, where art and subjective emotional perception of the mixer go out the window. I think the second mix is more musical, and it’s got more of a identity, whereas the first one was pretty harsh, flat, and stock. Only my opinion. Take care!

    Reply
  16. Russell Szabados

    Hi Graham,

    It was nice to wake up to this e-mail & video and ponder your mixes and thoughts while preparing and then devouring breakfast (waffles & coffee, a relative luxury for a weekday). Having said that, I liked the verses of the killed mix but it really left you nowhere to go. I was drawn in to the killed mix’s hype at first. Your remix *does* sound a million times better.

    And yes, this kind of thing happens to me too. It happened just last night! I’m mixing film cues and got carried away with Fabfilter’s Pro-L on a string quartet cue. Why I thought it was good idea to put Pro-L on my 2-bus I have no clue.

    I always appreciate your humility. It keeps you real. Take care.

    Russell
    Las Vegas, NV

    Reply
  17. Tom

    Agree that remix sounds better, with some bits sounding cool in killed mix. The almost clave click of the BD is distracting to me, was from the start – would love to hear a replaced BD throughout, with the verse and bridge mix2 and chorus’ from mix1.

    No “failure” here to me, all subjective choices. 😉

    Reply
  18. John Milazzo

    Hi Graham,
    The second mix is overall much clearer and cleaner, particularly the drums and vocals. But I also agree with you that there are a couple of spots in the killed mix that sound more powerful and where the grit doesn’t bother me as much and actually seems too add some musicality. Personally, I beilieve that no matter what musical genre we are working with, a mix with clearer vocals is always best.
    I have those “moments of weakness” once or twice a mix, I think! We have met the enemy, and s/he is us.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  19. Jeremy

    I feel like the second is a just few moves from rocking and that the first is cooked beyond repair. I don’t know what I would do off hand to try and salvage it. I would have started over too.

    Reply
  20. Frank Vivian

    Sometimes we mistake all the music coming together in a “Phil Specter” wall of sound, for energy. To my taste muddy music, even if it is loud, is not good music. The great recordings are ones where each and every instrument and vocal are distinguishable, yet come together and become a perfect “one”. For this reason I like the remix much better. Also, the killed version guitars were just plain tinny and distracting.

    Reply
  21. Bobby

    Bobby
    I liked the remix and it is a night and day difference. There is more clarity in the voice and drums and guitars have a better less distorted sound.

    Reply
  22. Rosario

    I’m agree with you the second mixer it sounds better. But in my opinion I feel that the reverb on the vocals it’s too much.
    Thanks for all you do!

    Reply
  23. M Huss

    Although I realize “use the stock plugins” is your current mantra :), I’ll bet that by starting over from scratch using your normal bunch of plugins (but with new insight based on the first attempt) you’d still end up with a much better mix.

    Reply
  24. Estevão Rui Calheirana BRASIL!!!

    I THINK THE KILLED SOUND REALLY COMERCIAL… I MEAN THIS IS THE SOUND YOU HEAR EVERY WHERE (WAVES BUNDLE)!!! BUT THE STOCK PLUGINS MIX SOUND LIKE HIGH QUALITY STUDIO RECORDINGS MAYBE ITS BECOUSE IN GREAT STUDIOS THEY DONT USE TOO MUCH PLUGINS, BUT STOCK PLUGINS. MAYBE ITS BECOUSE THE SIMPLE WAY STOCK PLUGINS WORKS MAKE US MORE FOCUSED ON THE SOUND.

    Reply
  25. Gabriele Tam

    I wouldn’t at all call the first one a “killed”mix! It’s much closer to the tracks you chose as a reference than the remix, actually. You’re probably being so hard on yourself because you know what went on behind the scenes – your going overboard with plugins – and that goes against your mixing philosophy, but suppose for a second you could listen to the song without knowing anything about how it was made, as if it was someone else’s: would you still judge it so severely? That being said, personally I prefer the remix: the less-present guitars don’t bother me, together with the reverb-heavy vocals they give the song an indie vibe that I think works well with your signature huge rock drums. It’s just a matter of taste, though, not of one style being better than the other!

    Reply
  26. Paulie

    There are dynamics in the killed mix that are somewhat infectious at moments but the overall mix does fatigue by the end. The re-done version is polished and sweeter in timbre and I can listen to it all day. Good job, and your humble approach and willingness to admit mistakes is probably what we all need most.

    Reply
  27. Matt Higgins

    I’m listening on cheap speakers at my office at work – remix was definitively better.

    It could easily be that these speakers are super bright, but the killed mix was extremely harsh in this environment.

    Reply
  28. Larry Green

    I like the remix. The vocals and drums are more prominent and clearer which I think are the most important things in pretty much any mix.

    Reply
  29. Jonas Wagner

    Learning by burning, isn´t it always the same old story? But isn´t it,too, the same old story, that a mix get´s better with more patience and a fresh, relaxed view on it? But on the other hand you´re alway teaching, that mixing fast and with guts is better than mixing with endless time and thinking it all over… In fact, there is no wrong or right, there´s only learning from failure, so thanks for this honest lesson, mate!

    Reply
  30. Chinchu

    At the beginning the remix was way good. I’m new to this and even I noticed the obvious changes. But when the vocals came in, I actually liked the killed mix more. I can’t say why, I just liked it more.

    Reply
  31. Mark Fields

    I agree with an earlier comment. I generally like mix 2 much better but I feel there is way too much recerb on the vox and they are too dark. I would suggest a midpoint between the two sounds. Thanks for all the great content. Your work is extremely helpful.

    Mark Fields

    Reply
  32. JF Remillard

    Hi Graham. I prefer the remix, hands down. I actually find there is more energy in the remix because of the added dynamics. The bass and kick are much more present and generally we hear the instruments better which is one of the goals of mixing, as you taught us (could the mother of each musician hear what her child is playing?…:))

    Reply
  33. Bengt Johansson

    Let me first of all say that the Recordingrevolution.com is the best thing that has happened to me since I started mixing. I’ve learned so much since I signed up. Thank you so much for that.

    Yeah, I agree. The remix sounds a lot better in my ears for exactly the same reasons that you say in the video. But, here’s the thing; I think you could have taken it a couple of steps further. The difference between the verse and the chorus could have been greater. To me it sounds like the entire song is at the same volume through out. In my opinion the verse would benefit a lot from letting it breath a bit more.

    Reply
  34. Awaclus

    Well, you could have just added (more?) sidechain compression to the first mix to make the drums stand out more.

    Reply
  35. Chris

    Hey Graham, Justin (above) had an interesting comment about how the remix sounded a little more “indie”. I agree with that comment and prefer mix 2 because there is a little more breathing room to hear what is going on, which is generally what you get with the indie sound. Great subject and appreciate your advice about stepping back for perspective and comparisons with reference tracks b4 you finalize a mix.

    Reply
  36. Chase

    Hey Graham, nice song! I really liked the harmonic excitement and punchiness on the killed mix it seemed to make me feel something more in my stomach (a good feeling not sure exactly what). Something sounded more “Radio” about it to me, or more “Pop” The new mix seems to be a lot less crowded sounding with the drums being louder and the rhythm guitars sounding quieter, it makes it sound more open, but something is nice about the killed mix sounding thicker or fuller to me, but at the same time it does seem a little squashed or two dimensional in comparison. I think instinctually I would want to hear a happy medium between the two. Killed mix rhythm guitars toned down a bit and Kick and Snr up a bit but not quite as much as in the new mix. I prefer the vocal effects in the killed mix, sounds more like a nice delay that fits in to the mix whereas on the new mix the reverb sound sticks out.

    Reply
  37. JohnP

    What I would do, with a razor blade, an edit block, and a roll of editing tape, would be to cut… oh wait this isn’t the 70’s anymore. However, I liked sections of both mixes, so I’d cut both together. There are points where the crunchier guitars really drive the song, and there are points where the more muted guitars are appropriate to the song. I do like the vocals in the “Killed” mix. They seem to get buried once in a while in the new mix. And you are right, the snare tone in the new mix better.

    Reply
  38. John Schindhelm

    I like the remix. Drums sound way better. That said, I’d be proud to have produced either one.

    Reply
  39. Forde Tapsell

    The new mix has slightly too much boxy midrange, slightly too much reverb prevalent on the vocal and the bass is a tad heavy.

    Reply
  40. Karl

    There are elements in each that are better. I think the golden mix is somewhere in between the two. It’s all subjective in the end. Any track can be mixed a thousand ways. You have to land a mix in the end. For me, the first is more thunderous, the second less so but clearer.
    So, a mix with the clarity but still maintaining some edge/thunder might be where it rokks….

    Reply
  41. Armin Burkholder

    Busy thread! Real quick …
    “Killed” mix: bright and crisp, but the drums – and particularly the lead guitar – get lost in the mix.
    “New” mix: much better dynamics and lead guitar and drums rock, but the vocals are a bit boxy and the rhythm guitars are a bit “dull”

    Graham, as always, you are an excellent teacher and I am constantly encouraged by your straight forward approach. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Reply
  42. Steve de Clifford

    Thanks again Graham. I did prefer the second mix with stock plug ins. The clarity of the vocals was far better and the lead guitar was more distinct. There was more space for each component in the mix. It wasn’t as “in your face” as the first mix but did sound more musical as you said. Thanks Steve.

    Reply
  43. Bill Harrison

    The Remix sounds better on my system.
    More dynamic range.
    More even across the frequency spectrum.
    The guitars had more low end. I hate tinny sounding guitars.
    Vocals had more low end – but too much reverb.
    Remix had more meat – and yes, that’s a musical term.

    Reply
  44. Chuck T.

    The Newmix works for me. The track is less ‘relentless’ than the Original mix. I thought the vocal sat better on the Original mix at first but after a second listen I decided I like the air around the vocals more in the Newmix . The kick in the Newmix is a bit aggressive in the hi end but that may just be my system. I noticed the Original mix sounded like how a radio station compresses things which would lead me to believe it might ‘killed’ the track even further on the radio. Though I do like like some of that energy in the Original I still favor the Newmix.

    Reply
  45. Phil Sackett

    The first mix hurts my ears. I really like your corrections to the revised version. Much more open and full sounding. Bright is great and all, but I will take weight and clarity any day over that type of crispiness, which usually only serves to promote ear fatigue.

    Cool demonstration. I admire any pro who is man (or woman) enough to not only admit when they cranked out a less than stellar product, but show it to the world in an A-B situation. That takes guts, especially when you’re putting it on the Inter-Highway.

    Reply
  46. Miguel Mayosky

    Dear Graham,
    In my opinion, the first (killed) version is simply too much of everything. The style of the song encourages this, but the mix lacks a bit of contrast. The second version is better in that aspect, but the cost is, for me of course, that the mix loses brightness: there is the voice in the front, and a sometimes dark, compact accompaniment behind. However, if I only hear one of the versions, both are ok. It´s a matter of taste, as allways.

    Reply
  47. Winkie Mintz

    The remix sounds the best to me. Clarity. The instruments set well in the mix and it does have more melody than the first. Smoother also.

    Reply
  48. Jonathan

    I liked the remix better. Although in my opinion it had a little too much reverb on the vocal, the mix in general was much more open musically. The first mix was in your face and had a dull sound to it, which demanded the listener’s full attention, while the remix was more relaxed and laid back while being brighter and sharper.

    Reply
  49. Darryl

    I like the remix overall. It breathes better to me, more open sounding, less brittle. I do wonder if you could have kept more of the guitar sound from the first mix by not effecting everything (as I’ve assumed you’ve done, I could be wrong) with plug -ins on the mix buss. It sounds like on the first mix, you jammed a lot of compression and/or EQ on the mix buss and both the guitars and drums got similarly treated, making the drums sound thin. I think a little more of the original guitar sound might be cool with the new mix. Peace.

    Reply
  50. StevieB

    Graham … (Had a tech problem on my previous post) This was the first time I was hearing either mix. So they were both fresh for me. Like many others on the blog, I thought the killed mix was better. I thought the guitars sounded awesome in the killed mix and then got empty in the remix. I thought the vocal in the second mix was louder but, like others, I thought they sounded disconnected and preferred the vocal without the reverb. Drums I thought were better on the remix. I would keep the original mix, but slightly bring up the vocals, and try to match the drums with what was done in the remix. You might try some additional panning on the guitars as they are masking each other a bit. I’d keep the energy, but try some separation.

    Reply
  51. Thomas Ferraro

    What would happen if you took all the instruments – minus the drums from the “killed” mix and put them in the “remix” of the drums… that way you would get both the brightness of the guitars and the richness of the drums?!?

    Reply
  52. Martin Weeks

    I saw several folks said the original’s vocals were better. I do not agree.
    I think the “blue” mix (2nd) was a lot better. Definitely more musical and the vocals to me sounded better because you allowed more vocal stylistic phrasing. Maybe the phrasing was there in the original but I couldn’t hear it from the mix. The 2nd mix allowed for more of your voice and phrasing (the sneers and stuff) to come through, which to me is just as important to a song, especially when the song is imparting a message, as those sneers, and rasps and so on are the “explanation points” and dot, dot, dots and so on of the spoken word. Just as we read words in a great book, where the punctuation can completely change the entire meaning of a sentence.
    Plus I’m an old fart officially now (just had a birthday) and grew up listening to great vocalists like Maria Mauldower (sorry about the spelling) and Sarah Vaughn. So I always pay attention to what the vocalist is doing with the phrasing. (Oh yeah lets not forget Billy Holiday…who people have said had a voice that sounded like an alto saxophone.)
    With the rhythm guitars sitting more in the back, they actually came out better. Balance between the lead and rhythm guitars. And yes the style of song almost requires that Charlie Watts slam type of drum beat.
    One thing though I do have you beat on though Graham…I’ve killed a lot more songs than you have…plghhhh! (lol!)

    Reply
  53. Daniel Paquin

    Hi Graham,

    Your Remixed version is hands down better. As you said your drums have more punch but you also gain a better sense of 3d/depth/items separation. I like it a lot more. Even if I downloaded your original version… 😀

    As for myself.. I am in the same seat as you, I ended up going over board with my rushed challenge mix and with additional relaxed monitoring I found a few more tweaks to do… I actually took it down also and funny thing is that I have done some tweaking on it today loll

    Reply
  54. Kimball Owen-Brown

    Hi Graham, I liked th energy of the first on,but the openness of the second. The riff in second mix is clearer.

    Reply
  55. Kimball Owen-Brown

    Sorry Grahan i typed the above on my phone,clicked send before editing. Let’s try this again.
    Hi Graham, I liked the energy and rhythm guitas of the first one, but the openess of the second. The guitar riff in second mix is clearer. Also the vocals sat better in the mix on the killed first version.
    Thanks
    Kimball

    Reply
  56. Claudio

    In my opinion the killed mix only has three problems:
    1) Kick and snare too weak/flat
    2) The mix is too harsh and has got too much mids
    3) Too much loudness results dynamic loss

    I prefer the power of the killed mix, but I also prefer the warmth of the remix.

    But anyway, thank you Graham for demonstrating impressively what’s possible with ‘onboard’ plug-ins.

    Reply
  57. Paul Stefanowicz

    Graham,

    Your re-mix was far superior; it sounded very professional.

    I was getting ready for work when I put the video on, which is unusual for me: I tend to watch your stuff without distraction. However, I didn’t start concentrating properly until the mix comparison came on, so I hadn’t listened properly to what you were saying; and the first thing I said was “too much compression”. Once the remix was put alongside it, it became obvious; before the remix, it didn’t sound too bad, which reinforces the theory that we get used to what we’re hearing and why A-B is such a great tool.

    A great video; a great illustration; thank you for your work.

    Paul

    Reply
    • Graham

      Yes – I wanted to the instant change of the A-B comparison to help wake up our ears to the differences. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  58. Christopher Barran

    The remix is MUCH better to my ears. The original mix has far too much high end in it, the kick and snare sound weak and I couldn’t understand the words nearly as good as the remix. The guitars in the first mix also sound harsh. New mix two thumbs up bro!

    Reply
  59. Voicey

    Ordinary or technical listener? First, what did I feel as an ordinary casual listener?

    Neither version seemed particularly special on my headphones, but that has nothing to do with these two good mixes. I enjoyed the song but that’s all. I used good phones, but I feel that neither TV/radio speakers in an acoustically inferior room, nor studio monitors in an acoustically great listening environment would have given either version that particularly special feeling compared to other songs. OK, reverb on lead voices often annoys me, so I did prefer the first mix, but that’s just me.

    Now, I’ve listened again as a mixing dabbler (good nearfield monitors, but not my best listening space) and really enjoyed the exercise. I tend to agree with Graham’s preferences, but also all the comments from everybody seemed pertinent too. It’s all very personal.

    I would like to hear a quieter song with the same singer 😉 I don’t think he realises his potential! Maybe with just a single backing instrument such as an acoustic guitar.

    A big, big thankyou Graham from one of your usually quiet students :-)

    Reply
  60. Wim

    I like the sound of the instruments better on the second mix. It sounds wider and more open and has more dynamics, it sounds punchy though still warm. The vocals on the second mix has slightly too much reverb which makes it sit on top of the instrument mix and not in it. The vocals on the first mix fit better, though they lack the warmth they have in the second mix. For me the 2nd mix is the better one, despite the above.

    Reply
  61. Daniel

    I prefer the second mix. Much as I love saturation plugins the first mix is too flat and squishy sounding in a turn-of-the-century-loudness-wars-nu-metal way. The guitars chime more in the second mix and the drums are way more dynamic.

    Reply
  62. Caleb

    Wow, this is really cool. Not a lot of people are this honest with their mixes and what they’re teaching. I can definitely hear the frustration in your voice. Killed mixes are never fun.

    I definitely prefer the remix. There’s a lot more depth and clarity there. The first has a lot of energy, but it’s really buzzy. It reminds me of listening to rock music on the radio in the 90’s, and how it’d start to crackle when the stations were getting out of range. Ha. Out of range. That’s a pretty good description for the killed mix. Though I wonder if in your remix, you could use mid/side processing to add a bitcrusher to the sides of the guitars, leaving the middle alone. Might bring back a bit of that edge from the killed mix without it being overwhelming.

    It’s funny. Whenever I kill a mix, it’s by doing the opposite of what you did here. I worry so much about having enough space that I cut way too much, and boost way to little. Everything starts sounding wide and thin, and then I wind up adding more tracks to fill in the gaps. Eventually, I fill up the space, but everything has juuuuuust enough room to work, and it sounds like musical ADD. Nothing stands out, your ear can’t rest, it’s pure chaos. And then I lose track of what I’ve added, so it’s hard to dial it back. I’ve taken up saving whenever I’m happy with a mix. When I make some night/day progress, I save the song as a new version. That way, if I second-guess myself or start killing something, I can re-open a previous version of the track and see if it was better than what I’ve been doing. If it is, I save over the most recent version, and work up from there. Every save is a checkpoint.

    Anyway, thanks very much for doing this video. It’s incredible a great reminder that failure’s okay so long as you learn from it.

    Reply
  63. James

    Everything sits really well in the 2nd mix. Theres space for the vocals and the kick and snare have space & isn’t washed out by anything. The seperation is really good. The lead guitar sticks out a little bit though in the beginning.
    My mixes always tend to get like the 1st mix because I think I need to add an exciter at the end & compress the crap out of it just to get it loud enough.

    Reply
  64. Cal

    I have always thought it is bitterly unfair I learn best from my own mistakes. It would be more painless if I could learn from YOUR mistakes, but even a little attention tells me THAT won’t work as well because it isn’t MY emotions, intellect, limbic system. Pick one.

    Thanks for everything!

    Cal

    Reply
  65. Darryl Winslow

    The guru admits to failure. You are soooo humble. I and I’m sure others appreciate that quality more than you can imagine.
    I’m sitting drinking coffee , eating oatmeal. The wife isn’t up yet. I’m listening to the 2 versions on my iPad……and hear some differences. Speculating on what I’ll hear in my “studio” .
    So I had a great mix for the 30 day contest, put it on nimbit. Listened and shuttered. I know I know listen in the car listen on phones. Listen on your iPad. Well I didn’t.
    It was 30 days. I wanted to stay in bounds so I had to shrug and let it go.
    So my question. I have since gotten out of the closet some freebies that I received when I bought my keyboard and am working on those “squeakers.”
    The question why bother having really good speakers. Most people are listening on smart phones , computers, Bluetooth , MP3 . Should I put them on Craigslist? Okay that might be too extreme.
    Darryl Winslow

    Reply
    • Jon Immers

      Darryl,

      Listening on good speakers allows you to make informed decisions while hearing your mix in greater detail, this way there won’t be glaring issues when someone does listen on a hi-fi system. Really good speakers tend give a more accurate representation of what your mix actually sounds like, assuming your room is acoustically treated as well. What a lot of people do is have an alternate grot box(mono/mid-range heavy) monitoring system that they can easily and quickly switch to during mixing. This more accurately simulates what the average consumer will hear, and helps your mixes translate better. Hope this helps.

      Jon

      Reply
  66. mat

    I MUCH prefer the remix over all but the ambience on the vocal sounds odd…. a bit too much and there’s some resonance in it somewhere below 500hz or so……..
    2nd mix was way better imho though!

    Reply
  67. Dennis Fry (The Original Spacefan)

    Wow, THANKS for sharing this lesson Graham! This is why I love your blog- great lessons to apply and benefit from.

    I am a big fan of dynamics in nearly all genres so I naturally favored the second one. So much more life in the mix, which is part of what makes music so enjoyable for me. And, if I want to rock out there’s this crazy little thing called a volume knob, fader, button, etc. that I can use if I want so really no need to squeeze the piss out of the mix.

    Reply
  68. Jorge Silvestrini

    Reading most of the comments for how some of us liked the second mix better than the first, I would love to know if you (Graham) used the same reference track when doing the remix…

    Reply
  69. Douglas M

    Hey Graham…first off thank you for sharing such a valuable lesson. I like the second mix…the “Remix” better. To my ears it has more roundness in the tones. The frequencies blend and interact with each other much better, and the kick and snare have a nice definition. In addition…I feel the Remix would not fatigue due to its roundness compared to some of the sharp edges of the first mix.
    I don’t care how cool the cut is…if your ears get tired quick…you are dead in the water and so is your mix! Good luck with the rest of the mix and enjoy the weekend!

    God Bless,
    Doug :)

    Reply
  70. Steve Buset

    The blue mix is much better to me it’s much tighter ,balanced and has more punch.
    As far as the other it has way to much air, reverb and sounds tinny.
    Great videos!
    Thanks

    Reply
  71. Amir R. Grant

    I feel just about the same way you do about your song. First of all, I just want to say this song is BOMB. I love the way you wrote it both lyric and music wise. It’s a great song that I can picture being on 104.7 THE FISH. I wish they did put that song on there.

    I thought that the new mix you made sounded a lot more musical but I think that the killed mix had some things about it that you may want to pay attention to and try to ever so slightly add to your new mix. Everything in the new mix sounds a lot more natural and balanced which is a great thing. What the killed mix had that the new mix didn’t is that in your face sound for the guitar and the vocals. It isn’t really a thing of volume i’m talking about. I’m talking about tone. I feel that the tone of the guitar and vocals on the chorus in the killed mix had that in your face sound. The problem with the killed mix is that it sounded completely squashed.

    I feel the new mix was definitely the better trade off of the two. However, I noticed that the vocals on the chorus of the new mix sounded more natural while the vocals on the chorus for the killed mix had a certain tone that just worked for your voice. No, your voice didn’t sound natural on the killed mix but to me, that was a great thing. It sounded like you were thinking of your song in a musical way and wanted to achieve a more aggressive tone to your vocals and guitar and I can definitely understand where you were coming from with that.

    While the new mix is better, I still think you should take note of some things on the killed mix and add them into your new mix. Getting the perfect sound for your song is no easy task but only you can say whether your song is truly done or not because it is yours. Don’t be afraid to try and pursue some of your ideas from the killed mix. Just be careful and try to use methods that will allow you to have the most control over your EQ, compression and saturation. For instance, if you used parallel compression and/or parallel saturation on your guitar and happened to think it sounds too squashed up or too anything, you can simply turn down the overly compressed and/or saturated track or even tweak the overly compressed and/or saturated track a little bit so that the uncompressed track is heard more. Try to avoid “Point of no return” kind of methods.

    Reply
  72. Koos Thonissen

    Hi Graham,
    Well, both mixes have their things going for them but I like the second one better because it’s more transparent.
    I tend to go overboard the same way from time to time – only to come back a day or two later and realize that a little less can give you more in the end.

    Reply
  73. AfroDJMac

    Love this post. I stopped using 3rd Party plugins to just reduce decision-clutter. Ableton Live already has a ton of awesome stuff, and just that alone is too much to choose from. Throw in 3rd party stuff and it can be hard to get anything done!
    I listened to this fairly loud. I found the killed mix to be a bit harsh on the ears. It made me want to turn down. The second mix was much friendlier on the ears. Sounded great loud. At lower volumes, the first sounds more exciting, but I don’t think it’s worth that ear-fatigue.
    Very cool!

    Reply
  74. Milton

    Hi Graham Thank you for this video, I have to tell you guys this is my case, I put all my effort on mixing and mastering then I listen to the results and Always sound very hars and grunchy and now after listen the diferences on both of your Mixes Finally I realize what was One of my errors!!! thank you Graham you Rock!!

    Reply
  75. Geir Borholm

    Hey there Graham,
    I know exactly how you feel,
    I went back and remixed my track as well,
    I think doing a track in a month was a great exercise,
    but unfortunately by rushing through, especially when you
    have a lot of other stuff on our plate can damage a song,
    I think your new mix is a lot more musical and easy to listen to,
    as apposed to the first mix which after a few listens makes you turn off.

    Great Job,
    Kind Regards

    Reply
  76. Dan Updegraff

    The dynamics are better in the remix, but the first mix had a brighter sound (probably due to analog saturation from the SSL or Slate plugins you like to use.) So there’s a little from both mixes that I like.

    Reply
  77. Mike New

    Last week I went through a similar experience. I was mixing down a composite demo for my band, and killed it with compression. It was comparable in volume to my reference track (thanks for the tip on that) but lacked any life whatsoever.

    I’m a novice at this; I’ve only been mixing a few months. I’ve taken most of your courses, but my ears still haven’t learned the nuances of EQ, attack and release times, or even compression ratios. I just knew it sounded bad – despite the fact that the visual waveform in my Pro Tools appeared much less compressed than your Remix. I started over, reduced the compression on various tracks, and the whole thing began to open up very nicely. It still ain’t great, but hey; I’m a beginner.

    I like your Remix better. The musical components are more distinguishable, less of that “wall of sound” assault. But that’s just me: old school ears that love lots of definition and dynamic range. One day I hope to create something nearly as good as your Remix. Nice job!

    Reply
  78. Jeremy Daniel

    Hey Graham, I love your work and I really like this song you made. Maybe someone else touched on this, if so I apologize, but I was curious since you recorded and mix this song already if it was more or less challenging to mix it again and again? Perhaps that is what caused you to “over do” it. I prefer the crunchy guitars pulled back, it leaves more room for kick and snare. As soon as I started doing that, my mixes improved tremendously. Thank you and keep up the great work.

    Reply
  79. Sam Sharples

    Sorry for another comment Graham…

    I was really disappointed with the first mix, long before you posted this. I thought “Man, I love almost everything Graham does, but I guess we have different taste in mixes.”
    But the this article came out and you fixed all the issues I had with your old mix.

    A sincere thanks for your openness and honesty, and for everything else you’ve done for us home studio guys.

    Reply
  80. Albert Gibson

    Started off great, red better. By the time the vocals were there they got smothered by all the processing. Blue better.

    Reply
  81. Jesse Robbins

    i liked the second one for the drums and bass balance with the guitars, but i think i liked the vocals on the first one with less reverb or delay maybe? the second one had more vibe for sure.

    Reply
  82. Walt

    I agree with you, Graham: There are a few moments in the middle of what you played where I really like the killed mix better, but overall the far more detailed remix seems much more interesting to me.

    Reply
  83. brian

    I suggestsimply concentrating on the best parts of the two mixes and do a third mix
    Why agonize or split hairs.

    Reply
  84. Jimboy Edwards

    The Blue remix sounded better, cleaner the bass and kick were punchier I thought. This is only my ears speaking, everyone has a different interpretation. I guess less is really more when it comes to mixing.

    Reply
  85. John W

    Both mix sounds work, but to my ears the second one allows more of the the decay of the notes and and lyrics to remain audible. I think this is why it sounds more open or “musical”. The decay of a note is where expressions are perceived. In the first with the heavier processing, it puts the accents on the attack making it a bit more edgy. You could think about (which I’m sure you have, Grahm) using the heavier mix techniques just on song parts or hooks to push the song more in yer face to get the listeners attention .leaving the rest with more “room to boogie” kinda feel. Ya know…dynamic!
    Great stuff G.

    Reply
  86. Daniele

    Thanks for sharing, Graham. I actually like both mixes but I agree the blue mix is much clearer and has far more musicality. I think if the rhythm guitar growl was either tamed with EQ or maybe even left out the red mix might still have worked. I have definitely done this to many of my tracks. I’m still trying to get better at the fundementals of mixing so it actually happens a lot more than I’d like to admit. In my case though, I usually end up flattening or de-life-ing my tracks with EQ and they end up sounding muted or lacking excitement. Thanks again for sharing, it really helps to have a professional reach out and make this kind of connection with the process. Take care

    Reply
  87. KD

    Hi Graham,
    I like the remix you can hear kick n snare clearly yoooh…. Guitars love them, so it happens when you find that the second Mix it sounding nice then the 1st and you’ve already shared it with others wishing to give them the second one

    Reply
  88. Andrew MacDonald

    Wow, so many different views! Very interesting. I liked the energy from the rhythm guitars in the “killed mix” but over all it is squashed and flat. In the “remix”, I think the vocals are more present and clearer, the drums are nicer and the lead is more upfront without being over powering, over all much more dynamic and interesting. The only thing I didn’t like, in comparison, was how quiet the rhythm guitars became. I could feel them there but not really hear them. I think if you just toned down the rhythm guitars a little, just a little, so that the balanced well with the lead and the rest of the “remix”, it would be perfect.

    Reply
  89. Simon Brewin

    Great video, thank you Graham. Really useful to hear the A/B comparison of the tracks. While I did like parts of the killed mix I felt the vocals and gtr riff were fighting with each other and the rhythm gtrs were smothering the other instruments. It’s really interesting to hear how over compressing and saturation can mash things and leave them disconnected from each other. I’ve done this several times (including my most recent mix!), though fortunately have the luxury of being able to take a day or 2 before reviewing.
    Thank you so much for your honesty and generosity in sharing your experience and skills.
    Namaste

    Reply
  90. Peter Löffler

    I like the “killed mix” better. Maybe a little cut in high mids on guitar buss would be enough. The new mix seems a bit muddy. But still the song sounds good.

    Reply
  91. Mike Lane

    I’m not in your league, and I’m the LAST guy who should be offering a critique, but…. 😉

    While the 2nd mix sounded better overall, the improved kick came at the price of a degraded bass… I’ve had the same problem. :))

    BTW – I’ve been following you for almost 2 years and I REALLY appreciate your work out here.
    You tend to give us neophytes more useful stuff than most of the big pros.

    God Bless!
    (Also really dig your tunes.

    Reply
  92. Thato Lephoto

    I got addicted to the first mix during the challenge, and I think “killed it” is a bit too harsh. This happens to me a lot too, and my even BIGGER mistake is giving up on the song completely, and never attempting to mix it all over again. I learnt something valuable, thanks for sharing this

    Reply
  93. Rotormouse

    Hi Graham
    I think a compromise between the 2 mixes would be great.
    The presence of kick and snare (Mix n°2) together with the “harshness” of the guitars (Mix n°1).
    One very important thing to me: the reverb/delay on the lead vocal in mix n°2 does not fit at all with the rest of the mix. It feels like coming from another place, not played together with the rest of the band.
    But this is rather a matter of taste…
    Best
    Rotormouse

    Reply
    • Cliff

      Hey Graham! Sounds great! Hey man, check out your intro guitar riff. I sounds like the guitar may be out of tune. It could be my ear are messed up though. :)

      Reply
  94. Cranky

    The drums on the ‘Killed Mix’ were far better sounding, far more natural and lively than the ‘Remix’ which, in comparison, sounded far too clean and restrained.

    Reply
  95. Rick Herron

    The second mix breathes. The first one is so saturated that because the instruments do not have their own space the harmonic content is lost and it begins to sound like other songs of yours. The midrange is fuller and the movement of notes more defined in the second.

    Reply
    • Rick Herron

      What I mean when is say fuller is the sense that the midrange notes are less saturated and that the ear perceives more harmonic structure. What you say about saturation, compression, etc. is true and it has nothing to do with stock plug ins, but the idea of being minimalist goes back to George Martin and early Rock n’ Roll where using less was all that was available.

      Make it real is what I have read. If you think you are there with the band that is half the battle.

      Reply
  96. stephen koorlander

    The second Mix , more clear , clean, brighter, and fuller. But its true to get it right from the source in the first recordings . Many thanks to you graham in your teaching .

    Reply
  97. Jerry M

    I think that part of the problem was that your reference track had that very squashed, heavily compressed, in your face sound to start with. I remember looking at the squared off waveforms. I like the more open sound of the remix and the in your face guitars on the chorus of the Red mix.

    Reply
  98. Ray Nelson

    Hi Graham,

    Just brilliant to admit mistakes and very well done for putting this out there. Your remix is way better than the first…brighter, louder, livelier. The first killed mix is flat and a little lifeless.

    Great job!

    Ray: http://www.theostudio.eu

    Reply
  99. Adam "Burning" Ziolkowski

    I’ve found myself in similar situations but only because of me getting adapted and overhyping the mix. I am “pushed” by the band I am working for to make the mix louder, more aggressive, crunchier, in-your-ear… and then I find my mix flat and overcompressed.
    How should I respond to the band, the “employer” that “more” sometimes means “less”?

    Reply
    • Graham

      Give them two versions – and let them decide. Ask if they can listen at similar volumes if necessary, but let them hear the version THEY want and the version YOU want.

      Reply

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