As previously stated, I always absolutely despised the way the drums were recorded for this song. This was the mixing contest song in 2015 for Boz Digital Labs, and I’d yet to make a mix that was meant to be taken seriously. So I decided to confront my old foe with the narrow and overly bright overheads and room recordings and attempt to mix it the best I could. This is the result.
It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at the original tracks to this song. The one thing I noticed about this mix is that the instruments are commanding a lot of attention. When I hear this song, I hear a song that should absolutely focus on the vocals, and everything else.
A lot of the instruments aren’t really adding anything necessary to the song. Obviously it needs bass, and the guitar drives the chord progression, but other than that, everything should be treated as second class.
Funny thing though, I just listened to my own mix of this song and had a similar issue, though with different results. I gave way too much focus to the piano.
Here’s my mix after fixing the things I just complained about in your mix.
I also had a hard time with the drums. I just ended up burying them a lot more, especially the overheads, which had some funky compression on them that made them super warbly.
I didn’t want to ask if they used compression during tracking, but that was definitely what I was hearing. The room and overheads are supposed to add depth, and really the only thing picked up in those recordings was the hi-hat, the ride, and the cymbals. If the overheads are good enough sometimes I don’t even need to mic the toms or the snare. I’m a big fan of minimalist miking, I like the sound of three mics better than thirteen. Of course, it depends on the drummer and the room what I choose to mic and what I choose to let the overheads pick up. So when I hear a recording in which the overheads are pretty much unusable, I’m worried right off the bat. I think the resulting sound is very thin when the close microphones dominate. Also, I don’t know if you remember, but the right overhead mic is out of phase.
I agree, but that’s sort of the name of the game when mixing stuff you didn’t track. I think it’s great to have ideals when you are tracking, but it’s also important to recognize when those ideals are out of you hands and take a different approach. For this one, because I didn’t love the sound of the overheads, I sample replaced the snare so that I could get some volume out of the snare without it just being a close mic.
But, it’s funny because listening to my mix now, the cymbals are almost non-existent. I must have been at a point where I thought “Nothing is poking out and bothering me” and didn’t even notice the fact that the cymbals are gone. I’m still not convinced that I miss them at all, as they seemed to server more to clutter up the song than they did anything else.
A lot more EQ on the drums, made the vocals more upfront as well. I agree, the cymbals are pretty ridiculous in this song. I’m not even using the hi-hat or ride microphones, that’s just too much for me.
better late, at least that is what i say some times because they say it. I am listening to the second mix and it is sounding good. For some reason i am feeling like i am getting much mids in that jam session near the end. I think it is coming from the bass and the toms. I am not sure though that is just a quick take on it.
Mix sounds pretty good - I like the vocal tone - If I recall correctly, the sibilance on the vocal was pretty prominent, but you seem to have controlled it pretty well here…
Listening on studio monitors, I’m finding definition and punch of the drums could be more defined, and the mix feels a little limited in both the low and high frequencies. There is a slight sense of boxiness in the low mids around 400hz that might be actually pretty effectively nixed on the master buss, but I’m guessing it’s a bit of a buildup that could also be addressed at the track level.
It’s funny the things that obsess different mixers in mix comps like this where hundreds of people mix the same tracks. Yes, the cymbal bashing at the end was a worry, but I’ve mixed lots of indie-style music where the drummers get overly cymbal-happy, so it didn’t bother me too much.
I felt there were more serious issues in the actual tuning and playing. The intro acoustic was super difficult to get sounding half-reasonable, and even when the tone was ok, to my ear the player was strumming so hard &/or gripping the strings so hard that the tuning sounded really sour. Then there was that lead guitar bit @ 1:32 that seems to suffer from intonation problems. That bugged me so much, I swapped it out for a better sounding lick (IMO) later in the song!..& then there was the bass guitar, which was playing minor scale licks over major chords (or something like that) but not in a “cool, dissonant” way.
FWIW, here was my attempt to “minimise the negative, maximise the positive”…
I found the ending particularly challenging, simply due to the sheer number of elements, and trying to not make it sound too crowded, yet still epic and powerful.
Still, it’s easy to be critical of a recording when you didn’t do it. In just about every situation where there are issues like this, I’d bet nine times out of ten, it was simply due to time and/or budgetary constraints, or maybe just inexperience. In any case, it’s no fun having people go through your tracks with a fine tooth comb and picking them to bits over and over in public - I really do feel for people who volunteer to donate their sessions for comps like this, and then get that kind of thing as thanks…
Nonetheless, these kind of issues present themselves in real world mixing scenarios, so dealing with them and finding solutions is great practice for “real life” mixing.
That mix makes me feel like a vasty inferior entity. [quote=“ColdRoomStudio, post:7, topic:1526”]
I really do feel for people who volunteer to donate their sessions for comps like this, and then get that kind of thing as thanks…
Yeah, I guess that was kind of shitty of me to scrutinize their tracking. Most of the work I do I make sure that I’m the one tracking it because I have an unorthodox approach, so it’s easy for me to be critical of the “normal” way. When I track drums I don’t use close mics, because I want to capture a performance and not necessarily a recording if you know what I mean. No one watching a performance would have their ear inches from the snare drum, so I tend to let the room and overheads pick up everything. Everything is always done as a performance in one room, all musicians playing together. If something’s not quite right or there’s a bum note in an otherwise killer performance we’ll overdub a few things, but mostly I like it live. You get a vibe and gelling that you wouldn’t get if everyone performed separately. A tight unit will always push the others to the best of their abilities. With my projects I also don’t use any compression during any part of the process. I can’t share with you any of my personal tracks, but I mixed that one song “Personality” without compression and I only used the overheads, the room mics, and the kick mic because I thought they did a pretty good job tracking the drums in that song, but the kick wasn’t all there in just the rooms and OH’s. @Jonathan spoke of mixing a song with only compressors, I’m the opposite!
Early on in my career, I wasn’t convinced you could make a balanced mix without compression, especially for vocals. While it does take considerable more time, I went in and gain adjusted every syllable that stuck out as louder than the rest of the track to smooth the whole thing out, and I was really happy with the results. This is how I mix everything I track, and it’s how I mixed personality. My attempt is below.
I double dare you to incorporate Clownpenis.fart as a record label or publishing company, and bring a hidden camera with you when you go to a law office to have a lawyer sign off on your articles of incorporation. I just wanna see some up tight perfectly groomed lawyer try to say that two or three times with a strait face.
I use the near mics to accent the attack of the stick hitting the head of the drum. Mostly for attack. And if you want to add ambience to only the tom hits later, the close mics are really your only tool for shaping reverbs that are exclusive to the toms themselves. But by large, I 100% agree with you that the overheads (and room mics if you have them) are the meat and potatoes of the drum track.
Well…it worked…that vocal is pretty smooth.
Clownpenis.fart Productions Inc. I’m waiting for the domain name of fart to be available. Someone already owns clownpenis. fail, a musician.
I love the idea of doing that, and I agree that it’s such a cool way to do things. You’re lucky to be able to record that way. In most cases, the limitations of logistics and space prevent that type of thing happening.
That’s an interesting albeit rather unorthodox approach - kudos for following through with your ideals…
For me, I look at things differently: I remember reading an audio nerd mag about 30 years ago which made the comment “the sound of rock’n’roll is compression”. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but the more I learned about recording, production, and the actual physics of human hearing - along with its interaction with our brain & psychoacoustics - the more profound that statement became to be. Each to his own, I guess.
Yep, that vocal sounds very nice. I like to do a similar thing with vocals - and then compress it!
The interesting thing about both your mixes is that I hear a similar buildup in the “boxy” frequencies … and while the degree of dynamic control you’ve achieved without the use of compression is admirable, I think your mixes would really benefit from more aggressive use of reductive eq.
…Ultimately, I think the distant miking approach you described above rewards the “no-compression, minimal eq” approach to mixing far better than the close miking approach. With the proximity effect and the unnatural capture of dynamics being a big factor in the close miking approach (which was used on both of these recordings), that buildup in the lows and low mids is inevitable, along with extreme dynamics that accompany it.
I personally feel that the mixing approach to a track needs to synchronise with the recording method used to achieve the best result… I don’t know if that makes sense
Damn, think I mixed this one too; I’ll have to see if I can find it. I would have to agree with Coldroom studio about that low mid range. What the hell was that at 1.54 lol… I about shit myself. Also, maybe a little more close mic on the drums, but that’s just me.
In a clinical sense for the purpose of conversation and analytics, it’s not too rude to assess the tracking.
Add an emotional response to that, and maybe it crosses a line, IMHO.
Damn dude, you’ve been making the rounds on the Bash This Recording. So you’re saying that if I made a statement like “(I Am Cassettes) are a bunch of talent-less hacks that have no business being in a recording studio. It was tracked so poorly that I sat with a loaded .44 magnum under my chin the entire time I was dealing with the basic tracks, no safety. This recording is so atrocious, they deserve to be sterilized to cleanse the gene-pool of their inept subhuman filth,” that I’d be taking it too far?
Hey @ColdRoomStudio, do you still have that session? Can I ask what your processing chain was on the vocals? I really like what you did with it. I didn’t mix this song…I probably would have made use of the Waves MV2 and threw either the UAD transient designer or Slate Bomber on there. Did you do your -20db of dual compression here, or did you have to go another route with this one? I’m I hearing compression on the output of that reverb tail too?
Lemmie know if ya have time! Thanks man.
They’re still up on Boz’s site. See what you can do.
Hi @Jonathan - I’m on vacation and away from my studio at the moment, so I can’t check whether I still have the session on my hard drive. The only specific thing I can recall I did differently on that mix was that I had to split out most of the sibilants to their own track. I’ll have to check whether I still have it when I get home.
Yeah, that’s pretty crazy… That’s one way to truly get blown away by your holiday destination, I guess!
No - I live somewhere that isn’t America (hard to believe, I know, but we do exist), so we tend to vacation at places that aren’t a 20 hour plane ride away!
Ok, well it turns out I didn’t use a separate track for the “S” sounds - that must have been another mix…
For this one, I used a primary and a parallel vocal chain.
The primary chain was as follows:
Slate VTM (15IPS) > Slate VCC (Brit N setting) > ReaEQ (High pass @ 155, 1.8dB dip @ 763hz > Waves Vocal Rider > Waves Ren De-esser > Waves CLA-76 Bluey (4:1, Med Attack, Slow Rel, Max 7dB GR) > Waves CLA 2A (set to comp mode, 2dB GR max) > Slate VMR (with FG-N EQ Boosting high shelf boosting 1.7db, cutting 1.6dB @ 725hz > FG-401 comp 4:1 ratio, medium-slow attack, medium-fast release > FG-S EQ boosting 3dB @ 3K, 0.66dB @ 1.7k & 0.5dB @ 149hz) > Waves Vocal Rider > Fab Filter ProMB cutting 3dB max centred @ 2.46K > Soundtoys Little Microshift (setting 3, Mix @ 10%)
Here’s what that sounds like solod:
The Parallel chain was: ReaGate (to gate noise in between phrases) > NI’s Supercharger Comp “Parallel Slam” preset, set to 100% mix, maximum (20db) GR > ReaEQ High passed @ 102hz, 6dB Boost with high shelf @ 6.9k > Ren D-Esser set to stun.
And here’s that solod:
Both of those tracks ran into a vocal buss mixed together.
Here are the dry combined primary and parallel vocals:
On the vocal buss I had aux sends to the following FX:
- Valhalla Room (Large Wooden Room preset), adding an addition 50ms of pre-delay, a high pass @ 600hz, a low pass @ 3.2k, and a fairly wide dip of 3.2dB centred at 1.9k.
- Valhalla Room (Dark Rich Chamber preset)
- IK Replika Delay (Heavily filtered and modulated 8th stereo delay)
- IK Replika Delay (edited “Dotted Phase” preset)
- Guitar Rig (“Slow Motion Movie” Preset)
- Sidechain send to compressor on the “Orchestra Buss” to duck the orchestral sections under the vocal
All the sends were heavily automated over the course of the track.
Here are the vocal FX solod:
… and the whole shebang solod:
Hope that explains it!
??? I think there’s a quite a few more than that…at least there was the last time I looked at a map lol. In South Carolina, I’m geographically close to the smaller ones that I am either Canada or Mexico.