Studio Project: Advice on Mixes

During class time on Thursday 30/4/15 we had the opportunity to get some valuable feedback on our mixes. One of the audio lecturers, Rose, met us in the Neve studio to have a listen to our progress on Dead Man’s Bones and Kaw-Liga.

photo 1Dead Man’s Bones

She liked the overall sound that we had but had a few questions about the effects we’d applied to some of the instruments. One in particular was the bass. The heavy use of compression was killing the effect of the bass. As mentioned in my last blog post, we’d made use of a multi-band compressor to bring out the actual bass plucking and lessen the ‘slapping’ (the recording we had to work with was under par to say the least). Rose suggested using an expander after the compression to bring a bit more air and punch back into it. The song’s frequency balance was good except for the missing ‘punch’ of the low end. She suggested we alter the kick slightly as well to complement the double bass more.

After another listen, Rose pointed out that there were too many higher frequencies panned left. The high hat was panned slightly left and the acoustic guitar even more so. If we adjusted this, the mix would sound a lot more open. Rose’s last major note on Dead Man’s Bones was that the main vocals were just a tiny bit too loud for her liking.

Kaw-Liga

With only enough time to show Rose another song, we chose Kaw-Liga as it is a different style to the other two (which are a more similar genre to each other). She was very impressed with the intro featuring the initial roll in of everything and commented that the frequency spread is “fucking perfect”. She was particularly impressed with the dynamics of the little guitar trills and harmonics in the background at different stages. These give it the energy of a live performance while keeping the quality of a studio recording. The main problem she commented on was the main vocal. They sit well in the mix during some parts and not so much in others. We’d already compressed them so she suggested automation or perhaps even fader riding. There was also a bit of concern regarding the transition from the second verse to the second chorus. It was noticeably less ‘punchy’ than the transition between the first verse and chorus. It doesn’t sound bad, it’s just less effective. She suggested fading the bass down slightly toward the end of the verse and bring it back in suddenly for the chorus.

We were lucky enough to get another opinion on Kaw-Liga with our facilitator Akshay dropping in to the studio to have a listen. His first note was that the snare needs more definition. Due to the processing we’d used so far, we’d lost the brightness usually heard in a snare. The bottom snare in particular wasn’t sounding right. Especially once the electric guitar comes in. Akshay stated that there wasn’t enough high end definition cutting through with the combination of these instruments. His other major bit of advice was to put a bit more reverb on the vocals and a longer pre-delay instead of a longer reverb time.

photo 2Live Mixing

Before leaving, Rose also gave us some notes to think about before mixing the live songs we’d recorded. After listening to what each microphone had captured she suggested using one in particular as a sort of room mic (the acoustic guitar mic). Much like the method we’d used with drum miking and mixing, she suggested building the other sounds around that mic (which was picking up a bit of everything). She also demonstrated to us on the Neve the method of soloing a channel and then EQing out unwanted sound as well as then accentuating the desired frequencies. Another major point here was to make sure we remove the room tone so that when it comes to compression you don’t hear the obvious ‘whomping’ sound of the room being compressed as well. Rose’s final tidbit of information was to layer EQs, using one specifically designed to ‘clean up’ frequencies then use another specifically designed for building tone (then move onto compression).

We are SO appreciative to have received this valuable feedback from Rose and Akshay. In the past, I’ve left mixing to the last minute so haven’t had time to discuss my progress with lecturers. We can’t wait to implement this advice as we’re sure it will make our mixes sound even more amazing!

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