We’re back with another episode of FAQ Friday!
As always we have a ton of marvellous questions and today we have some rather fun ones!
Our featured question of the week is: “What’s your first approach to make a mix sound more exciting?”
I would have to know all the elements to answer this, but if it’s a rock band and a live drum kit- that’s where I think parallel compression comes in.
If I take my full drum kit, bus it together and create a nice stable slamming buss. Then take a duplicate of that bus and squash the schnizzel out of it so you get all kinds of sloshing around, overly compressed drums, and then just pull it up ever so slightly underneath.
Dave Jerden taught me all about it in the mid-late ’90s. Dave said it like having a coiled spring stuck underneath just about to explode at any second. – I think that’s an amazing analogy for a parallel bus, just energy down there.
The other obvious answer that could have been the first one is 3-5K. Those high-mids are where everything is really super sensitive. That is where something that is really shrill (like babies screaming)! If you reach around 2-3-4-5K and pull it down off an instrument you will hear the difference.
By adding that high mid energy to your mix it’s going to make things really exciting, you just have to be very very choosy. The last thing you want to do is take the vocal or screaming guitar only and make that 3-5K- It will just stick its ugly head out of the mix.
However, if you go across everything and add a little bit of extra 3-5K, a little bit of energy like high-mids on everything. Not the same bandwidth every time! If the guitar has a little bit of edge at 5K then boost 5k a little bit, go to the base and find where the bite is coming from, if it’s at 3K, give it a little extra 3K.
Go in there and give us a DB extra across the board on areas and find the high mids that exaggerate something that’s already complementary to the instrument. Do that on everything and you will get a more exciting mix.
Do not do this!
Do not go to your master bus and just turn the 3-5K up. That’s fine for the mastering engineer to do when doing little tweaks at the end, but if you really have to go in and put 3db or 3-5K on the master bus to make your mix exciting that’s not the way to do it.
I know there is a whole massive discussion about top-down mixing but it’s just not how you mix! It’s not how any professionals mix. Find it at the source- don’t go in and cut low mids and pull those out because it will make your mix sound “better.”
A good mastering engineer might notch half a DB here or a DB there at the most because the mix sounds great by the time it gets to them. They’re not fixing it as a two-track! Go in there and find the instruments that would benefit from a little high-mid excitement, bring that up and your whole mix will get more exciting.
If you can’t get it out of the mix, plug in an electric guitar, do some whaling line- maybe it needs some highline screaming open string. Even if they’re low in the mix a stereo driving line can be an absolute godsend, so just get in there. It will make your mix more exciting, Maybe I’m blessed being a musician and I’m able to do these kinds of things but, I’m just letting you know that very very often when I’m mixing, I do add some stuff.
Almost every mixer that I’ve ever worked with at a high level is doing additional things, which, for example, can be adding little extra delays to give it energy to create a different kind of motion. It can be like taking a hand clap and adding a little delay underneath. It’s almost adding another kind of complexity to it.
If you watched Joe Napolitano’s video on Wednesday, he said: “sometimes getting some high mids and some extra excitement in the mix is not a boost of high-mids but is a tambourine” – It’s a great analogy, it’s really really smart.
So yes, go in there do the parallel drum compression, get that excitement going, go in there find instruments that could have a little tiny bit more high-mid on them that would complement the mix in general, and if you still don’t have it, then maybe track something that adds a little edge and excitement to it- Even if its super low just to get that energy.
If you want something more, plug in a tambourine or a shaker and just get some high-mids & high end up there. Don’t be afraid to do something to make it great. Whatever you have to do to make the music amazing is what you have to do.
As long as you’re not putting too much of your own personality on it, people will forgive it and will appreciate it. I’ve done many many things where I’ve done overdubs very subtly and either A: They’ve not been noticed or B: They have been noticed and been like “wow my mix sounds so much better, thank you!”
If you’re unsure of that speak to your artist, speak to your producer, have a great working relationship with them. The point is if we’re just mixing, it’s our job it to make it great and that can involve all kinds of stuff.
We cover the following questions during this episode of FAQ Friday!
• Could you talk a bit about crossfading and your thoughts on the importance of how and when to best use them? (0:48)
• What is the quickest way to mix guitar and drums together? [make them sound like they’re coming from the same place] (12:51)
• How do you know that something needs compression?
Are there any tell-tale sounds that you hear or something that you see on the peaks of the waveform that makes you want to grab for one? (18:17)
• There’s a certain song, that will go unnamed, that has a squeaky kick drum pedal that bleeds through all the drum mix. How would you remove such an annoyance? (25:30)