Mixing

Finally, we have reached the fun part. Mixing.

To discuss the technicalities of a specific mix on a platform such as this seems like a ridiculous idea to me. You can’t hear what I’m hearing, so even if I list off a bunch of settings you will never know why I did what I did. For this reason, I am going to avoid the specifics of mixing these two songs (sorry). Instead, I am going to discuss my thoughts and aims when approaching each mix, and I’ll say if I achieved th sound in my head or if I had to compromise for some reason.

Stranger:

When I sat down to mix Stranger I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted the track to sound like. It is clearly the more pop sounding of the two, so that played a role in my thinking, but most importantly it has an awesome groove which I was determined to emphasise.

I started with the drums. Building the sound of the drumkit with the pop sound in mind, but trying to be interesting and true to the bands more prevalent sound of Blue/Rock. Next, I moved onto Bass. The bass was very important because it was one of the main components of the groove that I mentioned before. I tried to make sure that it sounded full and consistent but still cut through the mix enough to be heard as its own element. Next, I started to work on the Guitars. I wanted the guitars to be super consistent in the track, so even though they were already distorted and therefore pretty compressed, I compressed them a bunch more, and it worked. Once I had all the instruments nice and solid and sounding good I went to work on the vocal. I made sure that it was clear and present as any good pop vocal should be, but that it still had the signs of the Rock side of the band.

When I had finished the mix, I still felt as though some of the transitions from verse to chorus were slightly lacking. To solve this I automated the fader on my Master Buss to turn up by 1dB during the choruses, giving the little extra energy lift that was needed to bring the mix together.

The Victor:

The Victor is a hard hitting full and aggressive Rock song. I knew as I started the mix that this had to be the goal. I started with the drums, going the extra mile to make sure that they hit super hard and consistently. I knew if I got these right then I’d have a good base to build the rest of the track off. If you ask me, I nailed it. The turning point for the drums was putting a tape emulation on the drum buss, which saturated the transients and made them sound full and fat. Then I moved onto the bass, which I knew also needed to sound huge, to keep up with the drums. I achieved this by using parallel distortion to make the bass sit up in the mix, without overpowering the guitars. Next, I came to guitars. In this track, the guitars didn’t actually need much work, so I spent a lot of time deciding on the level that they should be at so they sounded full but didn’t overpower the drums. Again, once the instruments were done I moved onto the vocal. The vocal sounded great, just overly dynamic. I worked pretty hard to get it to sit well in a mix that was already so full and loud. In the end, I got it to sit really nicely.

Overall the mixing of these two songs was a huge amount of fun. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I put a lot of effort into the tracks at the recording, editing and production phases so that by the time I mixed, I had already done the hard yards and could focus on being creative.

The songs should be coming out in late June 2017, so keep a look out for them.

If you have followed along with this series then thank you so much for doing so, it’s been a lot of fun. If you’re just joining now then I encourage you to go back and check out some of the other content.

As always, if you have any comments, questions, opinions or just want to say hi, then please leave a comment below.

Have a great day!

Rob

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Tracking #4: Vocals

Last of the primary tracking items on this record was Vocals.

From an engineers perspective, tracking Vocals is both simple and challenging. It’s one mic positioned in front of the singers face, easy right? Well, not exactly. Vocals are by far the most scrutinised element of a song by the average public listener, and so careful attention should be taken to choose the correct mic for the singer’s voice, and then to make sure that the performance is enthralling and emotional.

This being said I had a limited mic selection and my experience coaching singers through sessions is not the most extensive. Lucky for me, The mic that I tried first, the NT2000, was perfect for Talia’s voice. Bright enough to compete in the tracks without much EQ at all, and not overly S-ey (A common problem when you put a bright mic in front of a singer with a bright voice).

When it came to coaching Talia through the session and making the most of her powerful voice I got outside help. I asked my friend Arno Terblanche to take the lead on the “Vocal Production” of the session while I focused on the recording, tone and the general running of ProTools.

Contrary to what I said in the previous post, I actually used a slightly different setup for tracking vocals. I replaced my interface with Arno’s Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 because it has a USB 3 connection and so it can run with lower latency.

We set up a makeshift vocal booth in the room we were using by standing two mattresses in a corner and placing the mic between them. This helped control the sound of the room (which is very live) and meant that we got a nice dry vocal sound which I was very happy with.

With Arno’s help, Talia’s performance was top notch, totally doing justice to her well-written songs.

We decided not to do any harmonies or doubles, so as to allow her voice to stand tall and strong in the tracks.

Overall I was very happy with how the vocal tracking went and (perhaps for better or for worse) there was no significant mistake that I had to learn from on this session.

Thanks for taking the time to follow this series.

If you have any comments, questions, opinions or just want to say hi, then please leave a comment below.

Have a great day!

Rob

Tracking #2: Bass

After drums, the next thing we tracked was Bass Guitar.

I used the same setup described in my previous post “And then Began the Tracking: Drums” in terms of interface and software, and I had the same options in terms of mics.

The first thing that I reach for when I track bass is always a DI Box. I know that if I have the clean DI signal then I can experiment with mic placement and amp choice, because if the worst comes to the worst, then I can always re-amp. With that being said, here is how I mic’ed up the bass amp on this occasion.

First I used the Audix D6 in front of the cone, around 6cm back from the grill. The goal with this mic was to capture a nice full low end from the amp that may be lacking in the DI signal.

Next, I placed a Shure SM57 in front of the cone next to the D6. This was very much an experiment since I had the mic right there. Unfortunately, it didn’t sound particularly great, and after trying three different positions I just left it where it was and didn’t end up using it in the mix.

The last mic that I used was my Røde NT2000 large diaphragm condenser, I think it was in Cardioid (mostly because that’s what it was in from drums and no other particular reason). I placed this quite far back from the amp (about 1.5m) to get just a little hint of room in the bass sound. This also had the added effect of picking up the sound of the bass player playing in the room, which I thought was kind of interesting.

When it came to performance the bass player, Liam, did a fairly good job. For the most part, he knew his parts and played in time. There was just one thing that happened which I want to make a point of, because I think it’s a lesson well learned. There was one part in the one song where the band had changed one of the chords in the week leading up to recording day. Liam didn’t remember this when we were tracking, and I didn’t know about it. When we came to record guitars the guitarist spotted the issue and I had to do some on the fly editing to get the parts right to continue tracking guitar. The lesson I learned from this is to always have the guitarist at least somewhat present in the bass session, especially if you get the feeling that the bass player might be missing something important.

Thanks for taking the time to follow this series.

If you have any comments, questions, opinions or just want to say hi, then please leave a comment below.

Have a great day!

Rob

Welcome to InTheStudioWithRob

Hello there, and welcome to IntheStudioWithRob, my audio production blog.

Over the next while I will be writing about the projects that I do at my home studio, Lauda Sound, and at my college, the SAE Institue Cape Town, where I am currently enrolled in the third year of an audio degree.

I am very passionate about audio and I have interests in many different sub-parts of the audio industry. Over the next four months, I will have projects in both music production and audio post production to picture (i.e. sound for film and television) and I intend to write about as many of them as possible, for the purpose of giving aspiring audio engineers some insight into a variety of areas where they may find a deeper passion for audio, and to give some idea of the kinds of projects that you might do if you choose to study sound. I will try to keep the language of the posts as simple as I can, so that if you have no knowledge of audio then you can still follow and understand, and I will warn you before I become a total audio geek about something, but if you should find that you don’t understand something, then please don’t hesitate to ask for further explanation!

Please feel free to post questions, comments, opinions or just introduce yourself below. I am eager to hear what you think of both the blog and the work I’m doing, and I am more than happy to go further into anything that I have discussed to help you understand.

I hope you enjoy the exciting projects to come and have a great day!

Rob