Monday, 30 May 2016

Mix Hour

Since the end of my uni year, I've still been fairly busy with some days in the studio mixing and some gigs I've been to, but I saw that I didn't have anything planned for this last week before I go home. 
To fill this time, I thought I would keep practicing my engineering skills and challenge myself at the same time. 

In the time I've been mixing the cover album for Recluse, I've noticed how useful time constrains are for 'finishing' a mix (A mix is never really finished just left sounding as good as possible, with reasonable time spent). As rough estimate, I have probably spent about 6 to 7 hours mixing each song on the album.
Given this, I thought I would challenge myself, giving myself a measly hour to complete a prepared mix (tracks in a properly bussed project, trimmed & delay & reverb times work out), seeing what results I could achieve in a logically ridiculous timeframe.
Once I had spent my hour mixing, the track would be bounced down, and uploaded to my soundcloud page. 
I would also make a commentary immediately after, documenting any difficulties I had mixing, mentions of what things went well in the process, and issues I didn't get time to iron out. 

Mix #1: Jesper Buhl Trio - What is This Thing Called Love

I wasn't sure what the outcome of this particular mix would be, given that i've only worked with jazz music only a handful of times ever. With the time restraints, i'm happy with the sound I achieved. The fact that there were only 6 audio tracks helped with this a bit I reckon.

The mixing process

After first giving the track a quick listen, I started off by mixing the two kick tracks together, combining the attack from the kick in track and the thump from the sub kick track. As the overheads were recorded in mono, I duplicated the track and panned each out to 70% left & right respectively. I then combined the kick and overhead tracks, before adding in the snare. Before starting on FX, I tested how the kick and snare tracks sounded together in isolation.
Once I was happy with the drum mix, I started off by EQing the subkick track, cutting out some of the high end spill from the cymbals and snare drum. I also removed a resonant frequency at 650Hz that I disliked. With the kick in track, I applied a lowpass filter at around 10kHz to cut out cymbal bleed, and added around 3dB to both 80Hz & around 800Hz to bring out some of the attack of the drum. I readjusted the balance between the tracks after this and moved on to the snare drum.
As the snare track sounded like only the top of the snare was recorded, it didn't quite have enough bottom end so I boosted a bit of 60Hz using a pultech style EQ plugin. I also added some 4kHz attack and cut a little of a 15kHz shelf.
Now that the drums were finished I moved onto the double-bass track. I started off by sidechaining a compressor to a kick track, ducking the bass a couple of dB when the kick hit. I then EQ'd the track, applying a low pass filter at around 8kHz cutting out some bleed from the piano & cymbals. I boosted a couple of dB at around 120Hz to add thump to the bass sound.
I moved on to the piano last, leaving it as the stereo track it seemed to be recorded as. a little compression was added, reducing at max 4dB, then EQ was applied. a few dB of roughly 200Hz was cut, allowing more of the mids & high end to come through. a few dB of 5kHz added to increase the midrange of the track and a lowpass filter at 18kHz applied to attenuate some of the high notes of the piano.
I then moved onto the FX. For my short reverb I used a drum booth preset and changed the predelay times to the song tempo, and adjusted the time to taste. For the long reverb I used a studio room impulse, and for the delay used Native Instruments Replika, set to an 8th note delay in time with the track.
A small amount of the sub kick track was sent the long reverb, as well as a small of the bass track. A fair amount of the overhead tracks were also sent to this reverb.
To the the short reverb, a little bit of the snare track was sent, as well as a fair amount of the piano. A tiny amount of delay was applied to the piano as it could be considered the 'lead' track in the mix.

Time management

In terms of time management, it took a while, spending a good 20 or more minutes mixing the drums and applying FX.
With 20 minutes to go, I had added FX to all the tracks, and I was working on balancing the tracks & applying reverbs. I was close to finishing with 10 minutes to go, messing about with track balances & reverb sends, however I remembered with 2 minutes left, that the bass could benefit from some compression, so I placed a LA-2 style compressor after the sidechain compressor, compressing at max 4 or so dB. While working on adjusting the volume of the compressor, I slightly broke the rules and overshot a minute or so.


In hindsight, I didn't find anything took unreasonably long, however I probably should have worked a little more on compression, compressing the kick drum slightly, perhaps even trying out how some parallel compression worked on the drums (in moderation of course given it is a jazz song).

For my next song, I think I will challenge myself again, working on an ambient electronic song.

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