Friday, 3 June 2016

Mix hour #4

I didn't get round to doing yesterdays mix as I met up with some friends in the evening and was busy for most of the day, so instead I thought I would still complete my planned mix, but do it today (as well as decide on a mix for today).

Mix #4:
Big Mean Sound Machine - Contraband

This Afrobeat song was a decent mix. It was a live recording as would be expected of such a genre, which helped as I didn't need to fret too much with my reverbs. I haven't done too much mixing with percussion and horn instruments so if there had been any issues with the recordings (There weren't as this particular recording session was conducted by the renowned mic company Telefunken), I wouldn't have necessarily known what to do to fix them.
I enjoyed this mix more than I think I would have something like a big band recording due to the rhythmic aspect of the song, which could be lacking in latter song style.

The mix process

I started off as usual with the drums, giving a quick listen to the overhead tracks to see what instruments they mostly picked up, then muted them and built the sound from the the kick and snare. I added a little compression to the kick, but felt nothing else was really needed. I moved onto the snare, first compressing it a little to bring out some of the body, then used a pultech style EQ to bring out some more of the low end & attack of the snare. Near the end of the mixing session it came to mind that it could do with gating a little, so I applied a gate to the track, so it very gently gated out some of the cymbal bleed. I brought the overheads back in next, adjusting them to give a good overall sound of the kit, panning them wide as due to the genre and live nature of the recording. I then moved onto the toms, panning them a little so they had a spacious sound but were not too wide in the stereo field. Last I added in the percussion elements making them loud enough to be heard in the mix but not dominate the drum sound. One of the conga tracks had both a very resonant sound, and parts where the player seemed to play much harder, so I applied a compressor to the track to balance it, and used an EQ to cut out the resonance at around 200Hz. I dialed in a Distressor style compressor on a parallel compression track, sending the drum bus to it. I left it muted til the end of the mix however, to dial in once the other instruments were balanced.
The bass was simple enough to work on, I compressed the bass amp recording a little and balanced the DI track so it was 1-2 dB lower than the amp, giving the bass a bit of attack.
The guitars required little work. While the first track was sounding good, with a slight touch of compression that could have improved it a bit more, the second guitar track had one section where the volume increased dramatically. I could have used automation for this but for times sake, I put a compressor on the track and altered the settings at the loud part so the gain reduction peaked at around 10dB. This kept the volume balanced within the mix. I applied the reverb to the tracks at this point, using the short reverb for the picky guitar and the long reverb for the shimmery strummed guitar.
The horns were next on the list. I decided to pan the trumpet and trombone fairly wide, leaving the baritone sax in the middle as it could accompany the bass track. I applied a bit of the short reverb to the horns, the sax having less reverb than the others due to the low end response of the instrument. The Keyboard track was simple enough to mix in. I didn't particularly like the sound of the organ so I applied a fair amount of long reverb to it and left it quite low in the mix, sitting underneath the horns.
When it came to the room tracks, I was running very short on time, so I left them all the tracks at unity gain and just adjusted the bus.

To dial in the short reverb, I used to snare track to adjust the time of the plugin, and for the long reverb I used a studio room impulse.

A few minutes from the end of the mixing session, I adjusted all the faders once more to balance out some of the instruments, editing some of the panning on things such the percussion. I had ran out of time before I was able to add the parallel compression track back in, so having learnt my lesson from Wednesdays mix where I rushed the reverb and ended up drowning the vocals a little,
instead of throwing the parallel compression track up at a level I thought might be okay, I decided to cut it out as the mix was sounding alright as it was.

Time management

I found that once again, mixing the drums took me quite a long time, spending nearly 30 minutes in the end getting a nice balance. With that said, I did spend a fair bit of time working with some processing FX on some of the drum tracks, which improved the sound a fair bit, but were not quite necessary. If I was extremely pushed for time, I could have instead just quickly panned and adjusted the levels of the faders.
The reverbs didn't take too long, however by the time I had worked through all the instruments, panned and applied reverbs, I was running quite short on time.
I quickly changed some of the panning a bit, adjusted some of the levels of the buses and time was up.


I feel this mix went well enough, and I wasn't exceptionally pushed for time but I still barely went into any depth with my FX usage on the tracks. The balance isn't great, with the drums being present, but not having much power over the mix, just providing a backbeat to the other instruments. I would have liked them to push through a little more during the busy sections of the song. With that said, the drums in the song are very dynamic which could have contributed to this dilemma. I liked the bass, with a quite loud tubby sound, having decent note definition and plenty of power without taking focus away from the other instruments. In my effort to hide the lines of the Keyboard track that I dislike, I seem to have added too much reverb and kept the track too low, making it sound out of place in the mix. In general the reverb doesn't sound too bad, however there could be minor tweaks made here and there.

I will finish my last mix up tonight, which will be a Death Metal song. I'm looking forward to it, however I know for certain it will prove a hard challenge, despite the fact I listen to similar music often and am fairly engaged with an online community of engineers dedicated to audio work within that realm.

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