Anatomy And Progress Of A Mix

Most mixes go through numerous changes throughout the process. In some cases you might not recognize the first examples compared to the end result.

Today I’ll be covering the various stages a new song called ” Together” is going through to get to completion. Both the engineer and the talent can get tired of working the same song over an extended period of time if things don’t click right away.

When the mix also involves a progressing artistic direction things can get complicated very fast. All mixes are just a bit different, so what worked for one mix might not work exactly for another mix.

This project might be different than some others because unlike a studio that is only mixing, I was also guiding the musical direction of the song. Many studios today do the same thing with musicians also mixing. In this regard, things  are a changing in how music gets made compared to several decades ago.

This all started out with a catchy drum pattern I liked. I especially liked the toms. I was looking for something other than the standard pop/rock beats we so often hear. This was in the form of a midi pattern I obtained awhile back from loop loft. I modified the pattern slightly and loaded it as a project file into Sonar Platinum. After going back and forth between different drum programs, I eventually decided to used Addictive Drums 2 as my main virtual drummer. This was convenient because AD2 is well supported in Sonar Platinum with templates already built for it. Using these templates I had a nice drum mix established fairly quickly. I had actually named the project AD2 at that point because I didn’t know what else to call it. The AD2 template I had split all drum tracks into independent tracks, but also has a master track and busses for room and overhead mics.

As fate would have it the project sat dormant for months. I decided to further develop it with a synth called Hybrid I had recently purchased. I liked many of the capabilities it has for synced arpeggio lines. I used an altered version of a patch in Hybrid to run with the drum tracks. I really liked the way it was developing. Still no definite direction though. I had some vocal Ideas for it which I tracked. These were some decent ideas or so I thought. The vocal was initially a faster more stabbing kind of thing.

I eventually posted the track as a rough track in the collaboration section of Songstuff  located at www.songstuff.com. I  offered to mix new ideas. A few very promising  artists came along with some great ideas and suggestions.  One of those was Sreyashi who I didn’t know at the time is an excellent vocalist/lyricist. Sreyashi had some interesting ideas and a great lyric. Her ideas took the vocal into a different direction. Instead of singing directly to the beat, she opted to sing longer syllables over the beat. This gave the track a really interesting direction. Her lyrics over shot the track length by at least a minute, so I needed to do some arranging to lengthen the track and make it fit the intended lyric. In order to do this I imported all tracks into a different daw, Presonus Studio One 3 Professional. I like the way that daw works for arrangement and song reorganization.

After moving everything over from Sonar to Studio One, I was able to make the changes with little trouble, although the initial re arrangement process left a few noticeable blips in the audio which I needed to edit out. This kind of thing can get a little tedious to get right.

Sreyashi was very keen to detect places in the mix where her vocal timing wasn’t quite right. After a few retakes and some editing she was spot on the beat. I found Sreyashi’s vocal tracks were by necessity recorded in mp4 format. They still translated pretty well for a compressed file. Unfortunately I couldn’t get Studio One to import these files into the mix, so I had to go back to my old friend Sonar Platinum and import her files, write them to .wav, export and then import into Studio One. This is the reason it can be very helpful to use more than one daw. Some are better at certain tasks.

I knew from the beginning that the drums would need to be tamed since mixes like this need a good beat but also the vocalist needs to be heard. I relied heavily on the use of dynamic equalization to tame the more apparent peaks with the drums. This can be a tight rope to walk because the drums basically carry the tune. They need to be heard, but not over heard.The cymbals were a nice touch but seemed to be a little much, so I added some volume automation.

For the guitar part,I used an HSS electric guitar on a single coil neck pick up setting played through a zoom guitar effects box using a clean factory patch. This track also fought for domination and needed to be tamed. For bass I used a patch in a synth called Rapture driven by midi. I kept the bass low in volume and low passed below 60hz.

I added organ parts from a product made by AIR. The sax was taken from a Kontakt factory sound and sculpted slightly in EQ. For the echos at the end of ” together” and “forever”I copied the endings of the vocal parts onto another track and used a delay in Studio One. Sonar Platinum lets you add effects to specific clips which is much easier than my work around in Studio One 3. If this is offered in Studio One I couldn’t readily find it and didn’t see anything in the operation manual. I was almost tempted at that point to port the mix back into Sonar. I used automation to mix in the delay only when it was wanted. Volume automation is applied at various places throughout the mix to almost all parts. The building rush sound at the intro is a movie effect applied from a 3rd party library in Kontakt dedicated to movie effects.

Sreyashi sent vocal backup parts which were added to the mix and made to fit with her other vocals. I used the Waves plug in JPP vocals to enhance the vocals. I used a custom setting in it because the female vocal settings were a bit to up front in my opinion. I might re visit that part of the mix.

For reverb I only used one and put it on a separate buss. I used that reverb as my global reverb and added sends from each track to that buss. Reverb is a bit on the lush side which gives the mix a more airy feel.

On the master buss, I added some mastering plug ins included with Studio One including the fat channel to narrow the band in some places as channel inserts and a multiband compressor, another plug in to remove DC offset. In the post efx bin I added a limiter set to a fairly aggressive setting and a dynamic EQ set to take some of the mid range bite out of the mix. The limiter is the last thing in the chain. Mixed volume mainly by K-14. Exported to soundcloud as a 16/44.1 .wav. What you hear streamed is a 128mp3.

I immediately noticed a cymbal hit at about 1:30 I didn’t like. I still need to sculpt individual EQ on tracks to give the mix more clarity.I plan to further develop M/S for the background vocals. Still some issues. The drums are still powerful even after being tamed. they might need some more taming. This is the mix so far, I’ll update here on further enhancements in the future. I’m  happy with Sreyashi’s work and overall happy with the basic mix direction. She has a great voice. Still work to do-

 

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