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Gatters

Mixing a live band set - any tips?

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Hi all

My first proper project using Cakewalk is to take a live band recording (2 x 45 min sets, recorded as two separate long multitrack sessions) and turn it into a live album.  

Having created a project file with the files from the first set, I'm aware that I need to make some decisions about how I'm going to do this.  If anyone has any good tips or best practice ideas I'd love to hear them.  I have some initial questions:

1)  Should I split up the songs into individual projects, or does it make more sense to keep the big project intact and export the relevant sections as individual songs?  (I'm guessing the latter would be easier in terms of keeping a consistent sound from track to track, though it might become a bit of a handful to keep organised)

2)  If I'm keeping it as one long project, what's the best way to manage the songs in terms of tagging and selecting the relevant chunks of time for export?  Is there a way to select a time-span and name it as the relevant song, so I can easily select it later on with a single click?  Or should I be splitting the clips to do this?

Probably lots more questions to come as I get into this, but for now any and all advice would be welcome - thanks!

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I do this for our group. I split the long recordings into manageable length projects then work on each one.

To keep the same sound levels can be problematic due to things like guitarists fiddling with volume pots between quiet and loud moments, your ears will tell you what levels to use.

Personally i would not use one long track, its much easier nce everything’s been split up to work on individual tracks. Others may see otherwise, but this is my workflow.

Jerry

 

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What I do with working with a multi song live recording is keep the master project and split it up into logical sections with Markers.

Then I delete all but the song I want and save as to a new project. Then restart the process until I've saved all the songs as new per project audio files.

If you want to save disk space esp if everything is one long audio file is to save as each project file to the same folder without copying the project.

audio.

Another tip is to save each song as a bundle since that will only pull the exact audio that is referenced.

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A couple of years back I did my band's live album / concert video and it was a case of getting everything more or less in the ballpark mix-wise first, setting up markers so you're not fumbling around with an hour of audio, trying to find out where you are, and then doing edits and clean-ups on the tracks after that.

Then mix the thing as a whole. Unless you're swapping out instruments a lot, or that kind of thing, you'll get the most consistent and fast results treating everything as a huge hour-long song. Don't worry too much about gaps between the music just yet, just focus on the songs themselves.

If you're planning to do a whole show thing, this is where Ripple Editing is super handy - you're easily able to cut sections out and tighten up the flow, and all of the audio and automation will fall into place. You'll need to be careful with crossfades between each song section, of course, but again - super quick, and really consistent from song to song since they share track effects.

If you're just planning song by song exports, this is where your markers come in handy, like Noel said. Select all tracks then drag a selection range on the ruler, then use the Export Module to just export the selection. Do that for each song, then do any in/out fades, etc. on the exported file in any old WAV editor (or even in CbB itself as a new project if you like) just to tidy things up.

Yes, it's absolutely MUCH easier doing the cuts first and working song by song, and if each song is DRAMATICALLY different, that's probably a better choice overall, but if you can deal with a pretty unwieldy file that you need to do a bit of forward thinking with setting up markers, etc. then this is definitely the faster workflow for a consistent set.

Pro-tip: BACK UP THE RECORDING ASAP. You won't ever get that back if you have a disk error or you make a massive blunder mid-edit or something. Trust me on this, I had a disk go down mid-edit of our live album and lost a fair bit of work, but thankfully I could just go back to the archives and replace the missing files. Wasn't great, but the alternative without a backup was much worse!

Edited by Lord Tim
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Thanks for the tips guys

This particular band is all-acoustic, and the only between song change is when the bouzouki player switches to banjo (on the same channel).  So, I guess that channel will need different EQ etc.  Maybe I'll start by creating a new channel for banjo and cut/paste the relevant song sections over so I can work on the two separately.  I reckon then I'll work on a rough mix, EQ etc for the whole file and then start breaking out individual projects for each song so I can properly focus on each one.

I guess there's no exact right answer to this, but it's really helpful to hear how different people approach it!  👍

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Like others, i prefer separate projects for each song, but i do it differently. Here is why...

If you create all the projects at the start, you have to do lots of work again and again. 

I create a project for the first song alone. Mix it... Then make a copy of that project, delete audio. Save and close the project. Go to the audio folder for the new project and delete all audio. 

Next, in the long project made during the gig, set markers around the next song, split, bounce to clips, copy and paste into new project.

Now the new project has all the fx and fader pan, sends etc set up while mixing the last song.

If i do this for all the songs and when i finish go back and do the first two tracks again, the result is a fairly consistent mix.

This is an old video now, but it shows some of what i describe above.

If you end up working in one giant project, the navigator view can be handy. You can also save a snapshot per song making it easier to get back to compressor and limiter settings used to bounce each song.

Edited by Gswitz
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So for using markers, presumably I need to set one at the start and one at the end of each song.  How do I then select the exact chunk of time between them?  Do I have to click-drag on the timeline, and if so will that snap accurately to the markers?  (I'm not in my studio right now so can't check this yet)

It'd be cool if you could mark a section, rather than just a single point in time.

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I can only speak for myself, but I have mixed a huge amount of live albums. My suggestion is you keep it in one long timeline all the way to the point where you have to export for mastering. It's the easiest way to keep things consistent. Choose the best takes and delete the rest non-destructively.

Needless to say, NEVER edit and mix on your original file, that's the only backup you have. Save As... all the way :O)

Choose the song that represents the band's style the best and mix the entire project starting with that song.  Once you have a mix that the artist really really likes, start using automation to mix the rest of the set, keeping your kick drum and lead vocal as constant as possible, within the parameters of taste and style of each song.

I even master an album like that as one big performance, inserting my mastering plugs of choice into the master bus. Again, it makes getting a consistent sound much easier.

Others may have different approaches, so feel free to experiment.

Edited by Ludwig Bouwer
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i usually mix it in one large project file mainly to be able to export as one continuous audio file to be sync to video.

Like Ludwig said always make a backup first before starting. I would suggest to start by identifying the start and end of each songs with markers.

There's gonna be a lot of automation of clip gain/volume to reduce the amount of bleed and stuff, reverb mix, delay tempo, panning etc etc

Splitting of clips is also very useful for example if the guitarist changes patches between distorted and cleans, Vocalist doing screams and clean singing.

Clip fx are also your friend, but it can really add up and get very heavy on your cpu . You may also lose track of your clip fx easily so i suggest bouncing to clip once you feel your clip fx has achieved your desired goal.

Here's a screencap of my mix for a 30min metal/hardcore set of a 5-piece band

image.thumb.png.af3442df0fa33192aca524c0f3943f98.png

Edited by JL
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In terms of the backup issue people keep  mentioning, I'm a bit puzzled.  All of my audio files are synced to OneDrive, and right now I still have the originals on the USB drive from my mixer, so that's all good.

But in any case, I thought all the editing was non-destructive anyway.  I'm not using a bundle file - all of the audio files are externally referenced into the project, so should be unaffected I think?  The comments above sound like my audio files would be in danger if I messed up somehow whilst editing & mixing, but I'm not sure how.

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41 minutes ago, JL said:

Splitting of clips is also very useful for example if the guitarist changes patches between distorted and cleans, Vocalist doing screams and clean singing.

Clip fx are also your friend, but it can really add up and get very heavy on your cpu . You may also lose track of your clip fx easily so i suggest bouncing to clip once you feel your clip fx has achieved your desired goal.

Interesting - I've not come across clip fx before.  Is this the main reason why you split them up like this, so you can have different processing for those different sections?  There's nothing in this particular band's set that would need this (it's all acoustic, no pedals etc), but it'd be a good thing to know about in the future

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Clip effects and Clip automation can be very useful esp in this scenario where you have many songs in one project. 
You may not want the same processing for all songs so adding an effect to the track would apply it to the entire project. (yes you could automate bypass but it gets confusing) There are different ways to do this such as by using bussing but clip effects are a convenient way to do clip specific processing.
 
Like JL says, using too many clip effects can quickly add up the load while processing since they are always active (streaming silence) even when the clip is not playing.

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1 hour ago, Gatters said:

In terms of the backup issue people keep  mentioning, I'm a bit puzzled.  All of my audio files are synced to OneDrive, and right now I still have the originals on the USB drive from my mixer, so that's all good.

But in any case, I thought all the editing was non-destructive anyway.  I'm not using a bundle file - all of the audio files are externally referenced into the project, so should be unaffected I think?  The comments above sound like my audio files would be in danger if I messed up somehow whilst editing & mixing, but I'm not sure how.

It's all non-destructive, sure, but here's 2 scenarios (one you have covered well already):

1. If you don't have your audio or original project saved elsewhere and you have your audio drive go down. That performance is now lost forever, and if it's a show that's had one of those spontaneous magical moments, you may never capture that vibe again. But by all accounts, a USB drive backup and the cloud has you completely covered there.

2. People are suggesting saving a "master project" first. Basically getting all of your tracks into CbB, pulling up rough levels, etc. before you even start to edit. Save that, back it up, don't touch it. Then have your various revisions of your working project files after that.

The reason for that is first, if anything happens to your project file - say it gets corrupted or whatever - even if all your audio is intact, you'll still have to rebuild the session from scratch again, and that's a real drag.

Next, let's say you do something super dumb and have your ripple edit on and set to selection by mistake. You go to delete a bit of crud out of one of the guitar tracks and don't notice that this has now moved everything back to fill the gap. You continue editing other parts of the show and then suddenly you discover that everything is out of sync from a certain point. You'd move it back, except you're now 50 edits in and you have to undo a crap-ton of work. If you have the original session file handy, you can copy everything from the messed up point and paste that into your current work project.

And lastly, if you do all of your edits, mixing etc. and listen back and you think "hmm... this is actually kinda rubbish." Instead of undoing 347 edits and clearing effects and envelopes and all of that, just open up your original session, Save As a new working project and start again (this time with stronger coffee).

File revisions are definitely your friend. There's nothing worse than getting to a point you hate but it's not easy to get back from. It's non-destructive, sure, but reconstructing stuff is an awful waste of time and effort!

Edited by Lord Tim
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I'm totally with Tim on this. DON'T EVER underestimate how easy it is to do something stupid in such a big project. I actually save versions all the time, even for singles, let alone massive mixes like a 60 to 100 track 3 hour concert. It's a nightmare if you can't quickly go and grab a lost piece of audio from a previous version... sooner or later, you will need to backtrack. Sometimes clips are grouped that shouldn't be and you delete something, ect .  with high track counts come high plugin counts, which makes the chance of a crash or even a corrupted file much higher too. It costs nothing to use a bit of disc space and delete the old versions once the project is signed off. 

One of the cool things about CbB which many other DAWs don't allow is to keep more than one project open at a time. If you ever need to grab audio from another version, just launch the old file while the new one is open, highlight, copy, switch to the new version and paste.  

As for backups, you guys north of the equator with your super fast internet, enjoy your cloud backups. Talk to me again when it all goes down for whatever reason! My backups are in a fireproof/ lion-proof/ elephant-proof safe ;)

 

Edited by Ludwig Bouwer
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3 hours ago, Gatters said:

Interesting - I've not come across clip fx before.  Is this the main reason why you split them up like this, so you can have different processing for those different sections?  There's nothing in this particular band's set that would need this (it's all acoustic, no pedals etc), but it'd be a good thing to know about in the future

for example sometimes u may get a small section of a clip with some crackling or clipping you can chop that clip up, drop in a declip or decrackle plugin and just bounce that section instead of having the plugin on the track running throughout the entire set.

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Thanks everybody for the input - it's really helpful!

It'll probably be a few days before I get a chance to work on this again (kids, work and gigs take up most of my time these days).  I may come back with some more thoughts once I get further into it...

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5 hours ago, Chris Gatland said:

Thanks everybody for the input - it's really helpful!

It'll probably be a few days before I get a chance to work on this again (kids, work and gigs take up most of my time these days).  I may come back with some more thoughts once I get further into it...

And thank you for asking the question which elicited such a nice array of tips, suggestions, and detailed advice!!

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One tip I missed is use Mix Recall to play with different settings. You can even create mix recall presets for each song which swaps in specific bus and track effects that vary across the songs.

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