Dealing with busy tracks (multiple similar parts)

Something, which after years of making music, is still causing some head-scratching, is how to deal with tracks which are very busy in terms of parts.

Let’s say I have 3 or 4 synth lines running simultaneously, some in the same frequency range. I can start EQing them to give them their own space, but then they sound week when they’re playing on their own.

I could automate the EQing, so that more of the frequency range is present at times in the track.

That’s not so easy with a hardware setup, with Elektron devices though. Can do it in a DAW fairly easily.

Any suggestions / thoughts on this one? Thanks!

You could look into multiband compression, but I’d mainly look into tweaking your composition. Exploit the fact that Elektron boxes let you have different settings per pattern to allow each element to come forward at the right time.

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Yeah - I have a TC Finalizer 96k in my rig, for multi-band compression. Thing is - it’s not always my composition. I’ll get MIDI files from my musical partner, to re-mix on my kit for live gigs which are very busy. I usually try and keep my tracks a bit more sparse.

…but splitting things per pattern (seperate tweaked kits?) might be a way forward. What might get in the way there, is that I normally EQ on my desk, rather than on the Elektron units.

Try playing around with the panning of the parts.

Maybe you’ve already thought of this, but you might create two different patterns/kits with different EQ settings. Use one when the other lines are playing, the other when they aren’t.

Another option if you’re using another Elektron, such as OT or MnM, to sequence: create one or more MIDI tracks that adjusts your synth lines’ EQ when activated. That might be more complicated, but it could more closely resemble DAW automation.

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I could go for more extreme panning. Have to admit, I tend to use effects to expand the stereo more than I should.

Maybe transpose the synth lines, so they live in different octaves?

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I have to agree with this.

I find myself frequently removing (or drastically altering) “busy” elements to create space for other stuff.

In my own experience paring tracks back to the essentials is often one of the hardest but most rewarding compositional tools.

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Panning is great

Do you need 3 or 4 synth lines running simultaneously?
Try cutting back to 2 or even 1 and make that 1 sound HUGE
This 1 sound will give much more space in the mix, and actually will sound bigger with more impact than 3 or 4 sounds buried in a mix.
Less is more generally

It’s the style (for this particular project at least) - i.e. similar to retro Goa Trance.

Why not give us a sound example of what you are doing so we can perhaps offer some more concrete advice…?

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The thing is: 3-4 synth lines can be great but it’s a very high degree of counterpoint.
often people don’t wan’t to accept this.
It is however to some degree also physiological reasons for these theories in composition.

The most critical mistake to avoid IMO has to do with Critical Bands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_band).
Basically avoid writing too close in a low register as this makes it hard for humans to distinguish between notes in close relation. Transposing some parts could solve some of the issues with this.

Another basic but effective concept is to reduce simultaneous movement in the different voices. Eg. a high degree of activity in one voice is accompanied by a lower degree of activity in another. They would then typically exchange the role of active vs less active.

Another thing to keep in mind is the harmonic relationship on a note to note basis between the voices. Clening up this can do wonders for the mix.

You can of course try compensate for this in the mix Eq, multiband, panning, even reverb. Who knows you might be happy with the result.

Personally if I was mixing parts that were too busy and i for some reason can’t or arent willing to change them i would rather glue them together so the sum of the parts sound good in the mix. Root them all to one buss use some saturation an eq

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All good and useful suggestions - thanks. Re-doing things, so that some parts are doing more of the question -> answer, call -> response might be a good way to go.

I’m also listening to some tracks which push some parts way down in the mix, much further than you’d normally expect. You’d normally expect an acidy-bassline to be front and centre, but I’m hearing tracks where you can barely hear it. I think that’s one on my issues - when I’ve been working on a part for some time, pushing it down in the mix seems wrong and counter-intuitive. Might just have to let-go a bit and let some of the parts drop away.

On the Digitakt I’ve been automating the volumes and or using the lfo on playback mode to have different similar parts come in and out of the mix.