There’s a lot about this single that I love. Great rapping, inventive programming and
canny arrangement all come together to create a piece of chart alchemy that, musically, is
more than the sum of its parts. Despite this, the mix leaves me dissatisfied.
One of the most common tips you’ll find in mixing tutorials is that the low
frequencies of your bass synth/guitar should occupy a different frequency region to those
of your kick drum. This isn’t bad general-purpose advice, but I haven’t heard as
extreme a case as ‘Traktor’, where the bass is a pure sine-wave ‘F’ at 44Hz, while
the kick’s main low-end contribution feels like it’s more than an octave above,
somewhere around 120Hz. It surprises me, therefore, that the kick’s tone wasn’t
balanced more in favour of this region, because it’s rather anaemic as things stand.
Experimenting with the dynamics of this frequency region using Voxengo’s Transmodder
plug-in bore this out, showing that it was possible to significantly increase the kick’s
‘oomph’ at that frequency, even within the headroom restrictions imposed by the
track’s endstop‑busting mastering job.
The vocal tone isn’t doing the
kick any favours either, because it’s packing more 240Hz warmth than I’d expect for a
chart-oriented rap vocal. (Compare it with any of the recent Tinie Tempah singles, for
instance, or Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Black And Yellow’.) As a rough rule of thumb, the more
low end you add to a lead vocal, the bigger it will sound in the mix. While this initially
feels like a good thing, everything in a mix balance is relative — so as you make the
vocal bigger, the rest of the backing track effectively shrinks. I suspect taking out
3-4dB of vocal at this frequency would have been a good idea, and not just for this
reason. I’m also getting a slight sense of tonal muddiness from this mix, which seems to
stem from the way the prominent 174Hz and 348Hz pitched components of the opening sample
combine with the low end of the vocal parts, so processing the vocal to pull down the
octave centred on 240Hz would make sense from that perspective too. I’d probably have
added a couple of decibels to the lead rap at 3-4kHz too, bringing it closer to the front
of the mix, to improve small-speaker projection.
--------------------Recording Secrets for the Small Studio
Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio