How to achieve full sounding mix with DEPTH?

Jacob Fanto

Active Member
Such as the mix presented here: (quality of music aside, just focusing on the mix):


How is the bass so full and clear without muddiness and how does the whole mix sound so powerful?
 

b_elliott

Member
Awhile back I too wondered about audio depth. Whenever I peer through audio literature I discovered it sometimes uses undefined sound terminology such as warmth, depth, etc. So, I started to put together a mixing glossary from terms I encountered from mixers on the internet.

Here are two different definitions you might find helpful:

Depth: differentiation between close and distant sounds (Source: Izotope)

Balls: The depth and thickness of a sound. If a mix or element of the mix is said to lack balls, try increasing the low and/or low-mid frequency energy.

Attached is my incomplete, un-edited mixing glossary in case you find it useful.

Best of luck.
 

Attachments

Ryan Fultz

Member
Joel Dollie (apologies to him for not knowing the proper keys for some of the symbol markings for his name and thus not tagging him in the post) has a class on mixing orchestral music that made my mixes significantly better and helped me to hear a lot of what they were missing or had too much of before.

It does assume you know how to do things like use an eq or compressor and goes more into the topics of why and when and how much you might use something over what the parts of a particular device do. For example he won't tell you what an attack on a compressor does, but will tell you what types of attacks work best on different instruments and why you would pick one setting over another depending on effect intended.

He also has a youtube channel with lots of free advice on specific topics that where what originally sold me on purchasing his mixing class. Tons of great tips and techniques.

 

jcrosby

Senior Member
Depth typically refers to what you'd call soundstaging. A stereo mix can be thought of as having 3 axes.

  • X = Left to Right - Panning, width, etc.
  • Z = Depth - Front-to-back perception. Does one instrument appear to sit behind another?
  • Y = Height - Does the stereo image convey a sense of height? Sub and low frequencies are often perceived as low, mid and high frequencies appear at a higher elevation, however panning can have a big impact on the perception of height as well. (This is the axis most often not mentioned or overlooked when discussing 'soundstaging'. I don't know why honestly as it's equally as important... They all work together to create a lush soundstage. That's why my alphabetization is out of order... Y is often not mentioned...)

So basically it seems like you're asking two question but assigning them the same name... Hearing instruments clearly is separation. This is a totally separate discussion from 'depth'. Although they can be related, as if that is confusing enough!

Depth is far and away the more complex of the two. Unlike EQ, where there are tons of tools out there that can quickly 'shortcut' you to a balanced sound, creating depth requires the ability to hear where an existing instrument currently appears in the Z plane, then determining where you think it should sit. Is it too forward? How far back do you want it to appear and what are the best tools in your toolbox to accomplish this?

The last bit is a big part of what's called critical listening. (Assuming you're unfamiliar...) The ability to listen to a piece of music and hear each plane... The ability to pick each instrument out of the mix, hear where it's panned, determine what sounds foreground and background. The ability to listen for any impression of the height of the "stage", and notice of some instruments appear to sit higher or lower vertically.

It goes deeper than that, e.g. hearing compression, saturation, etc... But hearing depth and knowing how to create it requires more finesse than you'll get in a simple forum post. Basically, sure you can push something back in a mix with reverb. The question is do the winds appear to sit behind the strings but in front of the timpani?

I'm not trying to answer your question with a question... I'm just saying that while you can learn how to mix you should also be aware that critical listening and mixing go hand in hand... And this particular question requires some pretty solid listening skills.

That said... Kmaster's got great advice about beat's posts. Joel has some great techniques as well... Just be aware that this is one of the more abstract concepts in mixing, quite possibly the one people have the most challenge grasping... So don't overlook the importance of the ability to listen to mixes you know well, then analyze and ask yourself questions about how you perceive their 3-dimensional landscape.
 
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J

Jacob Fanto

Active Member
Depth typically refers to what you'd call soundstaging. A stereo mix can be thought of as having 3 axes.

  • X = Left to Right - Panning, width, etc.
  • Z = Depth - Front-to-back perception. Does one instrument appear to sit behind another?
  • Y = Height - Does the stereo image convey a sense of height? Sub and low frequencies are often perceived as low, mid and high frequencies appear at a higher elevation, however panning can have a big impact on the perception of height as well. (This is the axis most often not mentioned or overlooked when discussing 'soundstaging'. I don't know why honestly as it's equally as important... They all work together to create a lush soundstage. That's why my alphabetization is out of order... Y is often not mentioned...)

So basically it seems like you're asking two question but assigning them the same name... Hearing instruments clearly is separation. This is a totally separate discussion from 'depth'. Although they can be related, as if that is confusing enough!

Depth is far and away the more complex of the two. Unlike EQ, where there are tons of tools out there that can quickly 'shortcut' you to a balanced sound, creating depth requires the ability to hear where an existing instrument currently appears in the Z plane, then determining where you think it should sit. Is it too forward? How far back do you want it to appear and what are the best tools in your toolbox to accomplish this?

The last bit is a big part of what's called critical listening. (Assuming you're unfamiliar...) The ability to listen to a piece of music and hear each plane... The ability to pick each instrument out of the mix, hear where it's panned, determine what sounds foreground and background. The ability to listen for any impression of the height of the "stage", and notice of some instruments appear to sit higher or lower vertically.

It goes deeper than that, e.g. hearing compression, saturation, etc... But hearing depth and knowing how to create it requires more finesse than you'll get in a simple forum post. Basically, sure you can push something back in a mix with reverb. The question is do the winds appear to sit behind the strings but in front of the timpani?

I'm not trying to answer your question with a question... I'm just saying that while you can learn how to mix you should also be aware that critical listening and mixing go hand in hand... And this particular question requires some pretty solid listening skills.

That said... Kmaster's got great advice about beat's posts. Joel has some great techniques as well... Just be aware that this is one of the more abstract concepts in mixing, quite possibly the one people have the most challenge grasping... So don't overlook the importance of the ability to listen to mixes you know well, then analyze and ask yourself questions about how you perceive their 3-dimensional landscape.
Thanks for the detailed response!! Guess what I originally asked was a bit more complicated than I expected o_O
 

kmaster

Senior Member
Joel Dollie (apologies to him for not knowing the proper keys for some of the symbol markings for his name and thus not tagging him in the post) has a class on mixing orchestral music that made my mixes significantly better and helped me to hear a lot of what they were missing or had too much of before.

It does assume you know how to do things like use an eq or compressor and goes more into the topics of why and when and how much you might use something over what the parts of a particular device do. For example he won't tell you what an attack on a compressor does, but will tell you what types of attacks work best on different instruments and why you would pick one setting over another depending on effect intended.

He also has a youtube channel with lots of free advice on specific topics that where what originally sold me on purchasing his mixing class. Tons of great tips and techniques.

@Ryan Fultz you could just type "@ J O" and it should auto-complete for you.

Thus:

@Joël Dollié
 

Arbee

Senior Member
Apologies for straying into arrangement like we do in so many of these threads. Whenever I really listen hard at a track that seems to have so much depth and clarity, I often discover the arrangement isn't as complex as I thought it was.
 

jcrosby

Senior Member
Thanks for the detailed response!! Guess what I originally asked was a bit more complicated than I expected o_O
You bet man! Interestingly youtube just tossed this at me and thought of this post... Figured it would help expand on the concept of depth...

 

Gerhard Westphalen

Scoring Mixer
The things that you ask are exactly what I bring to a mix as a scoring mixer vs the ref mixes from composers. The balance is usually already there (unless I'm getting raw recorded tracks rather than just samples) so I'm just working around it with these other elements.

In terms of the low end, careful EQ, and subharmonic generators will get you most of the way there. Multiband compression as well. Reverb can sometimes open up the bottom end but it easily makes everything muddy.

For depth, I generally use a combination of reverbs and saturation. Compression on things that are more like a pop/rock song rather than orchestral. Finding the right reverbs will control both the width and depth. Sometimes reducing the width also cleans things up. Saturation will generally push things forward so it works well to bring elements outs or to just push an entire mix up. Of course volume also pushes things back in depth.

In terms of tools that I normally use for this - Fabfilter for cleanup, lownder, rbass, maxxbass, Altiverb, Seventh Heaven, and Slate for color (just putting on their London preamp can work wonders on individual tracks). For compression on orchestral music I don't really have any go-to ones since I rarely use that.
 
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vitocorleone123

Senior Member
Just remember, depth is not equal to reverb, though some depth may be achieved with some reverb. Reverb, like several tools, can be dangerous to your mix because it can make things muddy and indistinct. Not that it will, but it can. Composition (or recording, if doing it live) is a huge factor.

I also suggest taking the time to read a couple of books on mixing, such as Mixing Audio by Izhaki, the Art of Mixing by Gibson, and The Mixing Engineers Handbook by Owsinski. But not more than 2 or 3 books since this is music, after all. After that, I suggest taking some self-guided online tutorials/classes.
 
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Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
I also bring in a graphic.

Createc_Ideal_Mixdown_A.jpg
It shows the possibilities you have to bring transparency and depth into a mix.

As an example:
Suppose you have the classical arrangement of the instruments of a symphony orchestra and want to position a solo violin in front of it. Where is it best: a little to the left, in the middle or more towards the right?
Solution (from the point of view of the mix): rather more to the right.
Why, there are rather instruments playing in the low frequency range (cello, bass, tuba etc.) No problem for the violin sound in the high frequency range to assert itself there.

Unfortunately, many people believe at the beginning that they have to copy reality. Therefore they put the solo violin on the left side in the mix, i.e. in front of the 1st violins, 2nd violins, flutes, trumpets etc. Well, that's where it gets difficult with the transparency in the mix.

So here's a hint: In the mix you sometimes have to forget the positions of reality and choose others to get a transparent mix.

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Listen to this mix and compare the frequencies with those of the graphic. I tried to distribute the frequencies as good as possible (as shown in the graphic). Also: I chose the bass in the middle because then both speakers can transmit the most energy together... Nevertheless, few listeners will be annoyed because no attempt has been made to copy the classical formation of the orchestra.

All the best
Beat