Killer Attack! Musings from a former music journalist and budding mix engineer

12Jan/140

Chelsea by StakeOut – a demo of Waves Scheps 73

Via http://mixoff.org/index.php/topic,596.0.html

So I decided to demo the brand new (as of writing) Waves Scheps 73, a Neve 1073 emulation, by mixing nearly an entire song with the plugin. I grabbed this rock tune off of MixOff and got some pretty good results. There are only two additional EQ plugins on the track: Renaissance EQ to cut the sub bass and Ignite Amp's Pultec style EQ to boost and cut 1db off of 100Hz on the master buss. Compression duties are handled by my FabFilter Pro-C.

As a relative novice I think it was a bit unnerving to use anything but a parametric EQ but I thought to myself there are plenty of records mixed with just console EQ so what should I be afraid of? While the Scheps 73 has limited bands, even more limited than Waves other 1073 inspired plugin the V-EQ3, the selection was very usable and their response is very musical.

The big selling point seems to be the circuit saturation. I applied saturation to a few of my guitar tracks with fair results. I preferred "standard" preamp mode, as you pushed the channel you got a little bit of bite but I didn't really get any love in "Drive" mode. "Drive" mode is this fairly extreme, crunchy, distortion that I think is better suited as a mixed in parallel effect or as some extreme special effect; I can't see using this mode too often. I also null tested the plugin in bypass mode. It does color the sound with all the eq and preamp sections bypassed, adding a little bit of high end harmonic distortion.

In the end, it can certainly get the job done on more traditional tracks, but I feel like modern pop and other high track count material would benefit more from a more surgical parametric EQ. Without any high Q switches, the bass does tend to get a bit flabby which is a bummer, I didn't really feel things tighten up if I set my highpass near a boosted low frequency. With the high shelf fixed at 12kHz, I also feel like it would be beneficial to have some additional plugins or hardware that can work above that at 16kHz or 20kHz for less harsh air.

I'll live with the demo for a while but I think I'll end up grabbing it sooner than later.

With this particular mix I did a bunch of volume automation and decided to try some panning automation. I made the verses and more low key portions more narrow which give a feeling of the song "blooming" as it grows and enters the chorus. For a rock track where there aren't huge dynamic shifts, pan automation can really create that needed contrast between sections in a subtle but effective way. Another thing I wanted to try on this song was a bass drum that sat close to the snare and I have to say I like it quite a bit; I guess that's what I get for listening to Bad Religion lately.

"Jeezo" from GearSlutz was kind enough to post a very thorough video on the Scheps 73 against the V-EQ3

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5Jan/140

English Actor by James Elder & Mark M. Thompson

Via http://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-mtk.htm#JamesElder

A quick mix, maybe 2 hours. The stems and the arrangement as a whole were quite balanced. I took the time to add some vocal reverb, ping-pong delay, and subtle doubling to push the vocals wider. My one bone of contention with this track were the thin doubled vocals in the chorus, but there is noting I can do about that as it's the tendency of the vocalist's voice to thin out a bit in the higher registers. I did try to put some extra power in with some tight low mid boosts.

I've tried my hand at a few other mixes since my last post and they all ended up thin and lifeless. After asking some advice on the issue in various forums, I decided to stop high passing my tracks as a matter of course unless there was truly some masking or noise issue. The result is this mix and I feel like my low end work is getting better. About half the tracks on this mix have eq with soft boosts and cuts while the others stand unprocessed; this track lends itself to restraint.

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29Dec/130

Vermont by The Districts

Version 2

Version 1

Credits:
Vermont by The Districts
www.shakingthrough.com/thedistricts
Recorded for Weathervane Music's Shaking Through
Vol. 4, Episode 9
Mixed from low resolution stems.

Finally, I think this is a break out track for me as I continue to hone the craft of mixing. After downloading Pro Audio Files' course on compression (no affiliate link here, just a serious recommendation) I learned how to make a compressor actually do what I wanted. I could start making intelligent decisions about how I wanted to effect the feel of a track or buss.

For this track I decided to limit myself again, this time to my Fab Filter Pro collection which I've used in my video work for sound mixing for numerous months now. I just wanted some clean effects so I could concentrate on what I was doing rather than fight through the color that certain effects may impart. Nothing really fancy going on so I'll refrain from screenshots of every channel. With that said, one of the new things I've been working on is my creative use of automation; the arrangement was rather static since I decided my mix was going to make the guitars the hero of the track so I automated the guitars and vocals up 2db or so for the choruses and I really think it increased the overall excitement level of the track.

vermont_master_eq

I will admit that one of the things I'm not happy about is some eq adjustments I had to make on the master buss to even things out. 650Hz got a huge boost for mid-range focus while some harshness at 3kHz was cut. Even though the result sounds good, I need to take some rest and then revisit the track to see what is causing these issues and where I can better shape those frequencies in specific tracks.

For version 2, after some suggestions from Otek at Mixerman's The Womb Forums, I decided to do some revisions throughout the mix.

I took a 3K cut off my drum buss; after really examining the harshness issue I was fighting against, it had to do more with vocal timbre and my lack of de-essing. I threw a de-esser on the vocals and moved the 650Hz "focus" boost over from the master buss to the vocals exclusively. I deleted the EQ off the master buss entirely (yay!).

For the bass portion of the mix I did some additional adjustments. I focused the kick drum attack around 75Hz and moved the boost frequency on the bass guitar from 60Hz to 100Hz. The lack of focus in the bass was due to the guitars. They already had a high pass on them around 45Hz to avoid sub problems but I also shelved -3db around 120Hz to get them out of the way of the bass guitar. I then raised by bass guitar by a 1.5db to support that area of the mix. I also made the bass guitar a bit more focus sounding by lengthening the release of its compressor to kill some of the sustain. Along with that, I de-essed the drum overheads with a narrow sidechain to deal with the level of the hi hat and I pushed the levels of a few background instruments get them where they were before.

Fixing these balance issues really allowed me to live with the high end and really keep the mix more open sounding. I know I have a long way to go but every mix feels a little bit more commercial to me and I love the progress I'm making.

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26Dec/130

My Mix of Holiday by Francis Dunnery & Dorie Jackson

Well, well, here I am. This is the first blog post as I write about my journey in learning audio mixing. By trade I work in film and video so I have some experience with mixing sound but music is my passion. But enough with the boring intro, lets get on with the song mix.

The stems are available here as learning material. It's a well recorded track and done as one live take which is apparent as all the mics bleed into each other. The bleed isn't a problem as this style benefits from integration, not separation.

I decided to rely on my modest collection of Waves plugins, so I placed a Renaissance Channel on each track to keep things simple.

holiday-guitar-eq

The acoustic guitar gets simple EQ. We have a high pass filter at 60Hz just to curb the bass rumble. A long with the high pass, the tone is a bit boomy so we have a gentle low shelf just to balance the tone. The high shelf adds brilliance to counter our chesty "hero" male vocal from Francis and helps me avoid making the track sound too dull.

holiday-female-eq

For our female vocalist Dorie Jackson, I decided that this track was going to be our "spice" so I scooped out the body of the tone and dialed in some moderate compression so her dynamics never came too forward. Dorie's vocals float just above Francis'.

holiday-male-eq

With Francis, I added Adobe Audition's multiband compressor to handle de-essing. The Renaissance EQ adds our standard high pass with a high shelf to counter some of the loss from the de-essing. Like Dorie's track, Francis also has a compressor with a very gentle ratio and relatively high threshold to control vocals during climaxes in phrases.

The song, as a whole is mixed in mono. I have our guitar bussed to two Renaissance reverbs, each panned hard to opposite sides, Francis is bussed to a reverb left, and Dorie is bussed to a reverb panned right. The effect isn't terribly dramatic but helps increase the stereo spread.

On the master buss I have Wave's L2 to do nothing more than get things up to a comfortable listening volume. It's whacking 1-2db off the peaks so our track averages -10db RMS.

I think this track was a lesson in restraint. My first instinct was to add a bunch of stuff because that's how I make mixing "worth it" but I like the natural fluctuation of dynamics in the acoustic guitar and how the track seems to breathe; overly compressing the track would make it more dense and it would kill the personality of it all.

Please post your comments, thoughts, or critiques.

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