Marc Daniel Nelson mixes the track “Ryder” by the artist Carter Thomas, describing it as a stripped-down hip-hop/pop track with various instruments such as vocals, drums, bass, guitars, synths, and background vocals.
He shows his session layout with drums in red, bass in blue, guitars in green, vocals, and background vocals. He then goes on to discuss the importance of being careful with reverbs, low end, and transient response when working with a stripped-down track. This is a critical point because the mix can easily become cluttered and sound muddy if these elements are not properly managed.
This track is mixed with a hybrid setup. Marc uses a combination of plugins and analog gear to enhance the mix, including the Atlantis Dual Chambers, FabFilter Pro-Q 3 EQ and Filter Plug-in, Tube-Tech PE 1C Program Equalizer, SSL plugins, Orange Vintage Series Phaser Pedal, Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay Plug-in, Reverb Foundry M7 Link – Bricasti M7 Controller Plug-In, and many others.
He also discusses the stereo track and how it can limit creative decisions, suggesting that adding guitars to the first half of the song can improve continuity.
Now for the snare and vocals. When it comes to producing R&B records, it’s important to keep in mind the traditional approach to mixing the drums. Typically, the snare is almost equal to the vocal, sometimes even a little louder, and the same goes for the kick drum. This creates a tight and tucked-in sound, which has become the norm for R&B production. Marc sets the drums to be a bit more prominent, with the snare poking over the vocal to add a little more groove and ‘danger’ to the track – creating an exciting and dynamic listening experience.
Marc indicates that he will not be using automation on the drums or bass guitar, as he wants to maintain a feeling of the song ‘floating on a cloud’ without adding too much movement or emphasis on these elements.
Instead, he plans to use automation on the vocal and background vocal tracks to help them blend in nicely. He suggests that this approach will make the mix punchier and more cohesive overall. By carefully selecting which elements to automate and which to leave alone, Marc is able to achieve a specific sound and mood for this HipHop track.
Lastly, Marc tells us that in modern music, there’s a common misconception that wider and deeper sound is always better. However, the reality is that people are still listening to music through speakers, in their cars, or on headphones, where wider sound doesn’t always translate to a better listening experience. Therefore, it’s important to not get caught up in the idea that wider is better, or that more bottom end is always better. Instead, it’s important to keep in mind how people will actually listen to the music and not rely solely on what may sound impressive in a studio setting. By taking this approach, you can ensure that your music will sound great in any setting.
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More about Marc Daniel Nelson
Marc Daniel Nelson is a Grammy and French Academy Award nominated mixing engineer, music producer and creative director. He has been mixing, producing and managing creative content for over 20 years. His Music Credits include Fleetwood Mac, Colbie Caillat, Jason Mraz, Need to Breathe, Eric Burdon / Ben Harper, Francesca Battistelli, Robert Duvall, Ozomatli, Reik and more. As Protégé for both legendary producer / engineer Bill Schnee and Ken Caillat, Marc has carried the torch for impeccable quality sound and production. His film credits include Solo, Blade Runner 2049, The Vietnam War, Mulan, The Expanse, Wild Horses, Point Break, No Manches Frida, Fractured, Amanda, Father Figures, Ya, Ty, Vin, Vona and more. His creative management credits include executive producing the 13 episode PBS television series, creating and executive producing the national video campaign for Guitar Center and creative directing for Alcon Sleeping Giant, ArtistMax and Warner Chappell.