Currently I have just finished my first two iterations of one of the songs titled, “Would You Love Me” and “Don’t Say”. Both are a melodic and emotional style of hard rock similar to that of the reference tracks below. They draw on both clean and heavy guitar tones with a Drop D tuning, a gritty bass tone, a snappy and wide drum sound, with both clean and unclean vocals. The mixing sessions are taking place at SAE, currently in the C24 studio. The C24 is the only studio on campus, as far as I know, that is running UAD plug-ins. This was the major reason for utilising this particular studio.
First Mix: Would You Love Me
My reference track for Would You Love Me is Me vs Maradona vs Elvis by Brand New.
First Mix: Don’t Say
(Name still subject to change)
My reference track for Don’t Say is Go on Strike by Lower Than Atlantis
If you would like to see the blog with more info about the recording stage check out the link below……
Prior to getting into the studio, I made my best attempt at tidying up the sessions as best as I could, getting rid of unneeded clips, tracks and so on. As well as reorganising I/O’s and bus paths. I created the necessary AUX tracks for each group for the ease of CPU and keeping the signal chain clean as possible, some of the UAD plug-ins are incredibly thirsty on the CPU. Each AUX also ran into a separate SUBMIX track to test some mastering stuff, however a lack of studio time meant I wasn’t able to explore that aspect as much as I would have liked, that will take place later on. Right away I reset all the panning to mono, this meant that if I could get a mono mix to sound good then it would sound amazing in stereo.
Starting on drums, I went through cleaning and tightening the sound as best as I could using mainly Izotope and Native plug-ins. I had found that I definitely would put more time and effort into mic placement in future recordings, as there was more bleed than I would have liked, I spent some time trying to gate the kick and snare, however it wasn’t quite solving my issue the way I would’ve hoped, I may revisit gating in later sessions. I went for a modern rock leaning towards more of mellow hardcore sound kit sound. I made a lot of room for the highs to bring more snap to the kick and snare by dropping around 6 to 8 dB in the mid range. This really cleaned up the mud and tightened up the signal. I lightly compressed the kick and snare with a slow attack and only about 5 dB of gain reduction max, and then duplicated them both to run some parallel compression, which is a technique I am still experimenting with, I liked the result however I will revisit my parallel processing and try to refine it.
There was little tom work in the songs, this made it fairly simple to cut the clips where there was just bleed and no actual tom hits. I again brought out a lot of the mid range and tried to leave the lows and bring up the highs a bit to get a snappy transient with a deep tone. With the cymbals and room mic’s, I cut a lot of the unneeded low end out, which helped clean the bottom and meant there wasn’t multiple kick signals fighting each other. With the EQ’s I made my best attempt to find and cut out and hissing around the 5 to 10K region, of which there was a fair bit, as it was tracked with super bright AAX metal crash cymbals, the songs are fairly crash heavy.
Lastly I created a Drum Reverb AUX, and bussed the kick and snare tracks to it, creating a bit more of a space and moving back the aggressive kit sound back in the mix a bit. I used a few different plug-ins, a medium hall and a medium plate with the UAD reflection generator. The tails were only around one second and roughly 20% mixed with the dry signal. Still a noticeable and tasteful amount.
Bass tone was some I was fairly happy with already, what I wanted to do with it though, was to bring out more aggression and high frequencies. It had a very deep and fairly punchy sound initially. I used an Izotope EQ to cut some of the lows and low mids, in the context of the mix this cleaned up so much mud and fit the sound much better with the kit and guitars. I used a fair amount of compression reach up to 10 dB of reduction, looking back I would have like to use a multi-band compressor to treat the lows and highs a little differently, that will definitely take place in a later session.
Like the cymbals there was a lot of hissing in the 5 to 10K range, however each microphone track had it’s own individual needs, so I EQ’d them each differently. As a guitarist I found myself being incredibly fussy with the sound and I put a lot of time into try to bring brightness and liveliness to the tone. I’m not terribly happy with the guitar tone at the moment, I’m still finding it lacks a bit of clarity and maybe a tighter, dirtier gain. A Vox amp is not very appropriate for a modern high gain tone, hopefully next time the recording circumstances with be less rushed and we will have more options. I used the UAD Neve 1073 EQ to bring out more highs and general gain to the sound, this made a large difference but will need more tweaking get the tone, like in the in the reference tracks. I tried to use compression to fatten up the tone, again I’m only half sold that compression at the moment. Guitars are the main element I hope to revisit.
With the vocals I aimed to bring out more highs and crispiness. I used Parallel compression on both the clean and unclean vocals to try and bring that to life, whilst using the Neve 1073 EQ plugin (like above) to add to that effect. I used another EQ to try and cut some of the nasally sound frequencies, which ended up at around 500 or 600 Hz. I also applied a reverb to the vocal AUX, I used a medium plate again with only a subtle amount of level in the mix and decay of 900 ms. This felt like enough to create some nice space, it helped the vocal not to sound so spatially dry, which is the general sound recording in a vocal booth. I’m fairly happy with the vocal mix currently but I want to revisit the processing during the next session.
Overall I am currently feeling like these first mixes are at about a 6 or 7/10. That’s ok though, I still have time to rework and tweak the sounds. In Would You Love Me, based on the feedback, I need to rework the kick and vocal levels in relation to the rest of the mix. Within 12 hours I had already compiled a list of things a need to fix. Don’t Say is yet to be put up for feedback, but I’m pretty excited to see what the class and my lecturers say. My main hope with these two tracks, is to get the, to a professional enough sounding level for me to gladly release them officially. I also aim to remember to take more screenshots of plugins and processing…;)
I have also spoken briefly with an exterior graphic designer called Liam, he regularly does album artwork, website design or projects alike and he has told me he would happily create some artwork our two tracks, I am yet to follow up with him about more details but that will take place in the next couple of weeks.