How loud should a solo be in a mix for recording?

  • Find space in the mix for the solo. Duck any other mid range instrument for the duration of the solo. You shouldn't have to make it loud.

    That's interesting. Do you know a song sample that does this? I haven't listened to music that critical to ever notice this technique before.

    The more you find what Kemper can do then the harder you try to find what it cannot do -- like make a good cup of Frappuccino.

  • So how loud do the vocals have to be? I haven't mixed vocals yet. LOL.

    Lower the rythm guitars 1-2db during solo. You can hear in many songs with vocal pauses the volume for guitars go up and then down again when vocals comes in. Listen to many fav songs you like with solos. Try to listen as a producer/mixer and not as a fan. Use at least one imported track into your daw as a reference track.

    Think for yourself, or others will think for you wihout thinking of you

    Henry David Thoreau

  • A side-chain compressor might do the trick. I use that typically for the few dbs as mentioned before. Trigger the reduction with the vocal / solo guitar track and it will push the guitars a bit in the background as desired.

  • Hm I wouldn't recommend that for a relative beginner though :)

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  • Unfortunately, there's no rule for how loud a solo (or any element, really) should be. The "sweet spot" will change depending on the tone of the guitar, the key, and everything else that's going on in the mix. This is one of those things where you really do have to just trust your ears and your instincts. Get a good A/B plugin (like Metric A/B) and build your library of reference mixes you know and trust.

    I would highly recommend the Mixing with Mike "MWM Episodes" course, specifically, the Fundamentals of Mixing section.

  • If the lead guitar is the main part, mute everything else except drums, bass and the lead guitar - presumably the drums and bass are already balanced - then mix the lead guitar in till it sounds great with just drums and bass, then bring the rhythm parts back up till they complement the solo without overpowering it. If you just boost the solo up a few db over an already mixed arrangement, it won't sound right - especially after being mastered, the overall track will just sound weak and the solo will poke out in an odd way and feel too exposed. EQ-ing and compression, will help make it more present if need be. Volume levels are all relative - just raising the volume on the lead guitar is no different than reducing the volume on the rest of the track - hence why it'll sound weak if guitar too loud - as said above, there'll be a "sweet spot", trust your ears to find it.

    btw, this is how Motown producers used to work apparently - level vocals with drums and bass, then bring in the other parts - works for lead guitar too!

  • I'm guessing like a +2db over the loudest midrange instrument or leave close to level?

    A common trend I've noticed in your questions as you work to improve your mixes has been requests for absolutes and magic numbers, such as the +2db one above.

    Being a fellow geek, I can certainly relate to the logical / rational side of your brain wanting to have specifics. I know life would be a heckuva lot easier if you could just pull up a spreadsheet with formulas for each song and detailed rules on how many dbs in volume, what EQ bands, Q width and cut / boost db, and so on. However, as I think you're starting to learn, mixing involves understanding concepts more than memorizing settings. What's absolutely perfect for song A is an unmitigated disaster for song B.

    There's a common bit of advice in the world of DAW based mixing that you'll hear everywhere: "Mix with your ears, not with your eyes." It's so very easy to do the latter when you're sitting in front of the computer with all the information a DAW gives you, and it trains you to approach things in an unproductive manner. To this day I still fight this. After tweaking a level on something that ends up being -5.12, my OCD nature immediately wants to change it to -5.00 so it's a nice, even number. And I still catch myself watching the numbers or graphic display as I make changes and realize that my attention is on the visual and I'm not at all paying attention to what I'm actually hearing. Argh!

    So, this is an ongoing challenge for anyone who's intellectually based, and it's pretty clear that you fall into this category as well.

    Time to actually "study" songs instead of just listening to them.

    I think this is an excellent insight and definitely shows growth.

    To do this you need to study with your ears, not your eyes. You need to feel when the vocal or lead sounds like it's in the right place, so you need to learn how to feel where it is in other people's songs. This is an acquired skill, so you have to work at it, just like it's hard at first to learn the guitar part of a song off the record when there are fourteen different instruments playing (and five of them are other guitars). You have to learn what to listen for, how to recognize it when you hear it and then how pick it out of the crowd. It's the same with mixing as it is learning a song.

    Another exercise that could do you some good would be to go back over all the mixing threads you've started. If you're looking for it, you'll notice common trends where people talk about the same things every time - reference mixes, room acoustics, using your ears rather than expecting there to be specific formulas or a magic technical trick that the pros use. An example of the latter might be the side chain compression mentioned above. Yes, it's a common technique, but your instinct (like me) is to get caught up in the details of the technique itself when the real magic of it ends up being the same old thing - after you twist the knobs, how does it sound?

    I know this has got to be a bit frustrating in terms of advice. You're working very hard on improving and you're making great progress, but you often ignore the advice you get because it's not the answer that you want. What you want to know is the specific 1, 2, 3 of what knobs to twist and by how much, and all you get back from us are vague suggestions to use your ears and listen to how professionally released stuff sounds. That's because what you need to know is, "mix with your ears, not your eyes," so as friends we keep pointing you in that direction. Friends can be a bit pesky in that regard. :)

    So, the answer to your question is certainly on this page, which includes mix a solo like a lead vocal, use reference mixes to hear how both are done, and find the sweet spot for the given song. Ducking other tracks, as well as carving out EQ to find space, are techniques. As such, they're step 2. Step 1 is knowing what the end result is that you want to hear. Then you use step 2 to accomplish that. First pillage, then burn. Order is important.

    There was a great quote that I've never forgotten from artist Ralph Bakshi about contemporary artist and friend Frank Frazetta. Bakshi was talking about painting but I realized it applied to music as well. Late in life Frazetta had a stroke and couldn't use his right arm, so he started painting with his left. People were amazed that the work still looked every bit as good. Bakshi just shook his head and said, "Everyone knows that you paint with your eyes, not your hands."

    Or, to use the sculptor's advice on creating a statue of an elephant, "Start with a big block of stone, then chip away everything that doesn't look like an elephant."

    You've got great technical capabilities with both guitars and computers. Now it's time to do what you just said yourself. Start studying songs and learn how to pick out what they're doing - different levels, different EQs, panning, reverb, etc. Internalize that, and learn what it is that you're wanting to hear. That's the specifics you want to get a handle on. Then when you sit down to mix, close your eyes and just turn the knobs until you hear what it is you're wanting to hear.

  • Chris Duncan I'm on it! I already caught myself "studying" some Whitesnake and Pantera songs on the radio en route to the grocery today. I couldn't even remember the drive there and back - only remembered how the mix sounded.

    I trust your wisdom.

    The more you find what Kemper can do then the harder you try to find what it cannot do -- like make a good cup of Frappuccino.