Producing Stoneflies: Mixing
The mixing sessions took place in the C75 studio. However, I decided to stay itb with this tune, to have more control, more options and total recall available. I used the C75 for analog summing after the mix was done. I started with noting down the importance of the individual elements, sticking to the perceived space graph.
Static Mix: Volume & Pan, EQ, Compression, mix bus treatment
I started building my static mix, setting a loop around the first chorus and unmuting one instrument after another, blending them together with volume, pan, EQ and compression as planned via the perceived space graph. I started with the kick drum, giving it a very scooped tone with loads of root note and click, but not much lo mids, achieving a metal sound this way. Next up was the bass guitar which I mixed with three separate tracks, one containing only the low end from the DI, one containing the character using the amp signal with the low end cut out and the last one with heavy distortion that I blended in to taste, depending on the section of the song. Also, I used an AUX track for a chorus effect that I blended in depending on the section and for more width. The low end was compressed and heavily limited until it was more or less even, to have a steady low end throughout the whole song. The amp signal was left more dynamic and tone shaped to cut through at as high as 5 kHz for a metal-style sound.
I next had my focus on the snare, giving it a transient heavy, not too fat sound to cut through the mix, keeping it pretty much even in volume by using the 76-compressor emulation that comes with Pro Tools, the same I had done with the kick before already. Then I blended in my lead vocals, splitting the signal on three tracks as well, with one being the main sound, another a parallel compression track and the third parallel distorted, in order to support the choruses and more shouted sections by automation later on. The lead vocal bus was heavily compressed with the 76 plugin as well, achieving a very in-your-face- style sound. EQ-wise, I used low shelving for body, lo mid cuts versus nasal sounds, high mid cuts versus ‘pain frequencies’, a boost at 4kHz for presence and a high shelf for brightness.
The overdriven guitars were blended in next, with not much EQ and compression needed at all, followed by the rest of the drum kit. I compressed and high passed the overheads at 100 Hz to not interfere with the kick, giving them a high shelf above 10 kHz afterwards, a frequency region that I had reserved for cymbals, low passing pretty much all other elements there. The low tom was very problematic as the mic had for some reason picked up a lot of hi hat (!) bleed, which was louder than the signal intended to pick up. Either the MD 421 was broken and/ or I didn’t pay enough attention to this mic signal during tracking. Parallel compression was installed using a mono UX, where I sent only kick, snare and toms to, using heavy settings and blending it in in the centre of the mix.
The backing vocals were EQed pretty thin to not interfere with the lead too much. Then I went through the song from start to finish, blending in all elements that didn’t play in the choruses, giving them their place in the mix. Clean guitars were EQed warmer and less bity, but needed more compression, the lead guitars were good as they were recorded and the phasing guitar only high passed. On the mix bus, I used a compressor performing up to 2 dB of constant gain reduction, a little bit of EQ and no saturation plug in as I was satisfied with the analog character of the recordings.
Reverb & FXs
After all that was accomplished, I set up several AUX tracks for creating depth and excitement via verb and FXs. First, I used a ‘Fake Room’ AUX track with a reverb plug in on it simulating a stage reverb, sending all elements of the mix to it at different levels, to achieve the depth of the mix as planned out on the perceived space graph. I then blended in the AUX and set the level to taste. In terms of lead vocals, I used a much brighter individual reverb AUX, individual stereo delays panned hard for more depth and shine and a signature delay AUX with a very telephone-style sound quality to blend in via automation later. The snare drum was provided with a dedicated reverb AUX as well, with a very bright and crisp sound quality and enough pre-delay to not interfere with the original attack of the hits. Individual delay AUXes were added to the intro guitars, lead guitars (pretty much U2-style) and a phasing effect as an insert on the clean guitars for a more grungy feel.
Automation Next, I went to the whole tune, listened to it several times and made adjustments automation wise, trying to glue transitions together, make sure, the overall ‘storyline’ was engaging and made sense in terms of tension and release etc. I spent a considerable amount of time doing the following things:
- balancing, automating bass distortion, chorus and amp information per section
- Automating vocal distortion
- Riding vocal delays, especially the signature delays
- Boosting drum fill ins and downbeats on new sections
- Automating reverbs and delays depending on section, e.g. no snare reverb in intro, but more overhead reverb, more guitar delay, more overall room sound
- Lead vocal riding -> understandable lyrics
After that, I spent three hours listening to the song like a consumer from start to finish, doing very minor and detailed changes via automation, thereby e.g. looking to feature nice little fills played by the individual instruments and keeping the track interesting from start to finish.
When the mix was done, I printed it through two channels of the desk, using a considerable amount of trim to achieve pre amp colour, applying very settled high and low shelves and called it a day.
The next day, I used sum limiting to achieve a level closer to a mastered loudness standard, as I usually do before delivering a mix to clients for checking it out.