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Mike Senior
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Joined: 08/08/03
Posts: 1400
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Chris Brown: 'Beautiful People'
      #922034 - 23/06/11 10:47 AM
It used to be that the classic dance-style delay patch was the 3/16 — in-tempo, but nonetheless syncopated, creating lots of complex, skittering repeats for even the most four-square synth line without undermining the underlying metronomic pulse. However, where the 3/16 rhythmic grouping permeates the actual synth/vocal lines themselves, as in this chris brown single (and many other club tracks at the moment), the simple eighth-note delay can take on the same ‘press this button for more rhythmic interest’ role instead. In this particular case, though, I suspect there’s a 3/16 delay patch happening too, even though you can’t hear it most of the time, because its echoes are being masked under each new riff note. The reason I think it’s there is because the 11th note of the riff (at around 0:04) only has an eighth-note duration, which means you can hear one little 3/16 repeat pop through just after the 12th note of the riff. This is the kind of clue that I’m always on the lookout for. It suggests that there’s a 3/16 send effect contributing to the sound of this mix in a ‘stealth’ capacity, even though it’s not really audible in its own right anywhere else in the track, as far as I can see.

The Sides signal of this mix is worth a listen too. The first thing to notice is how little low end there is in it, because both the kick and the bass are totally mono — something that the mix engineer here, Serban Ghenea, seems to do more frequently than some. But the other thing to pay attention to is the heavy compression gain-pumping effect. Although the simplest way to achieve this kind of effect is just to turn the kick up loud in the balance and hammer the whole mix into a buss compressor, that’s clearly not what’s happened here, because the pumping is primarily affecting the big, fizzy synth sound much more than it is the little arpeggiated synth line, or the lead vocal delay/reverb effects tails. The advantage of applying the pumping effect more selectively like this is that you can exaggerate it as much as you want (to give that subjective ‘the kick’s so loud that my ears are almost imploding’ illusion) without any danger of losing vocal intelligibility. This is particularly important in this song, because chris brown’s vocal follows the rhythm of the bass riff a lot of the time, so if the pumping were affecting the whole mix, many of his words would have their front consonants ducked. Clearly, some classic dance tracks have made a virtue of this kind of effect (Stardust’s classic ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ springs to mind), but from a pop-crossover perspective, anything that compromises clean transmission of the lyrics is always going to be considered something of a gamble.

--------------------
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Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio.


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Mike Senior
SOS Mix Specialist


Joined: 08/08/03
Posts: 1400
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: Chris Brown: 'Beautiful People' new [Re: Mike Senior]
      #922039 - 23/06/11 10:52 AM
I reviewed the version of this single from chris brown's album 'F.A.M.E.', which had the following details in its liner notes:

Written by chris brown, Marco Benassi, Alessandro Benassi, Jean Baptiste.
Produced by Marco 'Benny' Benassi, Alessandro 'Alle' Benassi.
Recorded by Brian Springer.
Mixed by Serban Ghenea, John Hanes.
Mastered by Tom Coyne.

The more I listen to this track, the more I think I should stick it into my own little reference library. The reason for this is that I really like the way Serban Ghenea has managed to get the vocals right up front and clearly intelligible, but while still managing to maintain a sense of size in the track as a whole. The ever-present danger, of course, is that bringing the vocal too far up front turns everything else all Mini-Me, but I think he treads this tightrope brilliantly. The aforementioned clever use of pumping is clearly part of the recipe here, as is the calculated mono-incompatibility of the pumped synths -- the latter are still present as a statement in mono, in terms of giving enough harmonic support and that pumping effect, but just don't deliver the same masking 'fizz'.

However, the vocal processing also has an important part to play in this too, by giving chris brown this kind of hyper-glossy high-end sound that can really cut through the mix. The question I find myself pondering is how Ghenea's achieved it. Obviously, there's a great deal of 10-20kHz top octave in there, to start with, but I doubt that it's as simple as just slapping on a 15kHz shelving boost with a DAW's bundled channel EQ. If I were shooting for this sound, I'd certainly head towards high-CPU processors, probably of the modelled analogue variety, because it's very easy to end up with harshness otherwise. Industrial-strength de-essing would be pretty much a prerequisite as well, or else some kind of multi-band processing that obviated the need for it.

Listening to the stereo Sides signal leads me to suspect that there's a combination of bright modulation effect and very short bright reverb being used for further HF enhancement too -- both stalwarts in this kind of application, although I don't personally use the latter as often as I probably should! (Note to self...) There are lots of bright delays going on too, with all sorts of different taps pinging around the place (including a feedback tail in the right channel imbalancing the stereo field -- not something that I normally recommend, but it does catch the ear nicely here), which aids the top-octave sustain and density.

Altogether I think this is a premium-grade job, not least because it manages to avoid being too fatiguing to listen to, despite the overall high-frequency density. I do still secretly wish it had been a Marilyn Manson cover, though...

For more critiques of commercial productions, browse The Mix Review Index

Edited by Jennifer Jones (25/07/11 10:26 AM)


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Re: Chris Brown: 'Beautiful People' new [Re: Mike Senior]
      #922313 - 24/06/11 02:16 PM
Hi Mike,

Great critiques and thank you for the enjoyable reads.

Quote:

Obviously, there's a great deal of 10-20kHz top octave in there, to start with, but I doubt that it's as simple as just slapping on a 15kHz shelving boost with a DAW's bundled channel EQ. If I were shooting for this sound, I'd certainly head towards high-CPU processors, probably of the modelled analogue variety, because it's very easy to end up with harshness otherwise.




That's interesting! could you tell us why the high CPU would give a better result? Is it because they give a tape saturation effect and the algorithms are more "intense" thank a standard shelf effect? Isn't this the difference between the home studio compared to the pro studio, or do we have the same tools now to compete?



Quote:

Listening to the stereo Sides signal leads me to suspect that there's a combination of bright modulation effect and very short bright reverb being used for further HF enhancement too -- both stalwarts in this kind of application, although I don't personally use the latter as often as I probably should! (Note to self...) There are lots of bright delays going on too, with all sorts of different taps pinging around the place (including a feedback tail in the right channel imbalancing the stereo field -- not something that I normally recommend, but it does catch the ear nicely here), which aids the top-octave sustain and density.




Do you mean that he has added an EQd delay and pan modulated the delayed signal?

Thanks


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Mike Senior
SOS Mix Specialist


Joined: 08/08/03
Posts: 1400
Loc: Cambridge, UK
Re: Chris Brown: 'Beautiful People' new [Re: ]
      #929231 - 22/07/11 12:02 PM
Quote Music Manic:

Hi Mike,
Could you tell us why the high CPU would give a better result?




It's just been my personal experience that CPU-light (especially bundled sequencer) EQs can sound rather harsh when boosting top end. That said, you don't necessarily need to shell out ridiculous amounts of cash for reasonably smooth high-end boost: something like Sonimus SonEQ is pretty nice, and freeware. Been using it a lot in Mix Rescue recently.

Quote:

Quote:

There are lots of bright delays going on too, with all sorts of different taps pinging around the place




Do you mean that he has added an EQd delay and pan modulated the delayed signal?




I'd expect that it was probably done with some kind of multitap delay plug-in, where you can independently pan all of the different repeats. EQ in the delay send or return would have made them bright, if they weren't already.


--------------------
Recording Secrets for the Small Studio
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio.

Edited by Jennifer Jones (25/07/11 10:25 AM)


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