Todays mix was an ambient electronic song:
Bravestar - Downtempo
Holy shit, this was a tough one. I am kind of familiar with the genre of music, though I wouldn't say I listen to it much, and certainly have done no work in a style like this, bar one little side project I worked on about two years ago which incorporated some ambient electronic style synths.
The mixing process
This mix was very different to any other mixes I have worked on before. Due to the composition process that usually goes into electronic music, most, if not all the tracks have had their tones created and EQ & compression applied, which means it saves me a job as an engineer. Sure, some tracks could sometimes benefit from a little additional FX work, but in this particular case I had no time for that and didn't really see the need anywhere (as can be seen in the photos)
Instead of FX work, I only worked with panning, fader levels and time based FX sends.
I started off working on the drums, combining the three kick tracks and making my way down the tracks in the drum bus. Once I had adjusted the levels of the tracks, I set some basic panning up on a couple of the tracks and brought the main loop into the mix. I checked that the different drum elements were decent, before moving onto the bass. I brought the bass in and adjusted the fader then moved onto the keys. I went down the tracks in the keys bus, adjusting the faders and setting panning. I found I didn't find a place in the mix for the synth track, so got rid of it.
Then I went back through all the tracks I had worked on so far, and gave some thought to automating panning, as can be seen in the picture. I didn't automate many tracks, only some elements that weren't consistent throughout the song. I used some pingpong panning for some of the tracks, however when there were multiple 'extra' elements, I tried to keep a balance of interest between the left and right of the stereo field.
Before moving onto the FX bus I sent some of the tracks to the reverbs & delay to add ambience to the song.
I repeated the same process that I took on the other buses when working on the FX. I found partially due to time constraints and partially I didn't think they fitted the compositon, I cut out around half the FX tracks that were in the stems. Finally I added a touch of reverb to some of the tracks.
Time wise, this was a very challenging mix. I found that once I had finished the panning automation for drums and keys, I had a measly 20 minutes remaining of my allocated time. I chose to do the reverb and delay sends at this point because I felt that would be more important than adding in the FX tracks. I was partially right in this judgement, given how many FX tracks I decided to cut out, however I was pushed for time towards the end, having less than 10 minutes to add in and adjust the volumes of FX tracks.
I just about made the time limit, which is a bit of a miracle.
As i've mentioned already, this was a particularly challenging mix because of it's genre, so I approached it without much of a clue what to do. When I heard that the tracks needed little to no processing FX, I underestimated how long it would take to get the mix into any finished state. In a way, the panning automation was the main 'effect' I used to give light and shade to the song.
The fact I took so many tracks out could be an issue if I were completing a mix for a client, however as this is only a practice the decision is obviously up to me.
I'm fairly pleased with the mix, but I know for certain there are many things that I could have spent more time on, or tried out; the particulars being trying out some processing FX on some tracks, spending more time trying to integrate the FX tracks and I could have spent more time on the reverb and delay sends.
I haven't decided what i'm going to mix for tomorrows challenge, but I know for certain at some point in this week I will work on a metal track, hopefully something along the lines of Death Metal.