Friday, 17 August 2012

A song for the studio - part 4

Mixing the track

So this is the final instalment of this particular series where I have been detailing the writing and recording process of my song 'Play it again'.

After the brilliant studio day, we returned from the studio with a nicely recorded, and reasonably well mixed version of the song - But Colin and I both felt that it needed a little more.

Ear candy

Play it again - arrange page
For me the song was lacking what is often refered to as 'ear candy' in music production circles. These are the quiet sounds that sit in the background or the appear only a few times giving depth and interest to the production. Something for your ear to latch onto outside of the main musical parts without even really knowing it. 

First on my list was the introduction - There was good energy in what we had but I felt it needed something a little more. I added the arpeggiated 'guitar' part to the very start. I also deliberately set it to a lower level than the main opening chords of the song - this is an old trick which can cause the listener to turn up the track when it starts thinking it is quiet gaining you extra impact when the song actually kicks in!

Over the main introduction I also added some strummed guitar chords - well, an acoustic guitar patch from Dimension Pro anyway. This for me helped to sell the introduction much better.

As the track gets into verse one the arpeggiated 'guitar' sound drops back to play a series of long notes with a slide transition between. This for me was just enough to draw the ear into the back of the track and add some movement.

Come the verse middle and chorus, I doubled the piano part with the same acoustic guitar patch used in the intro, just to add a bit of sparkle and texture.

Verse 2 is treated to a simple riff from the new acoustic guitar patch - a 'picked jangle part' set way out in the left of the image. The verse middle sees the return of the sliding note motif, and the same sound makes a return in the bridge alongside the picked acoustic.

And that was it - just enough extra material to add some interest and variation to the soundstage.

The mix - my mix!

Nick had done a solid job of mixing the track at the studio, especially when you consider he only had around 30mins on it, but for my taste there was a shade to much reverb on the drums and backing vocals. Also the drums were a little to upfront which was fine while the track was quite sparse, but now I had added some extra instruments I needed a little more to sit everything in.

Play it again - mix page
I started my mix by applying gates to all the solo drum tracks. This was partly to help me separate the sounds ready for individual processing, but also allowed me to shape the attack and decay of the individual drums. This was particularly important for the toms which drive the groove of the drum track. They had more decay and ring than I needed and by carefully setting the gate I was able to keep the attack and drive but lose most of the ring which was robbing space for the other parts.

I added gating and pretty heavy compression to the snare too to give it plenty of edge and ensure it cut through well in the mix. All the drums were routed to a drum bus and additional compression and EQ applied along with a little splash of short bright reverb. The only exception was the kick track which I heavily gated to remove all the spill from the rest of the kit, compressed, EQ'ed and routed directly through to the master bus so that it was not treated to the drum reverb.

The other tracks received the usual array of EQ, compression and reverb treatments to might expect and were routed via busses to the master output.

The final touch was to apply some low ratio / low threshold single band compression to the master bus, followed by a more targeted multi-band compressor to glue everything together. Final icing was added with Sonar's excellent 'Boost 11' limiter to give it that extra loudness required to compete with commercial mixes.

And that was it done....

And here it is if your still interested ;o)

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings

All the best


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