Mix Rescue: Tom Marcovitch | Media

Mixing & Recording Advice

Published in SOS April 2011
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Technique : Mixing

These 'before & after' audio examples accompany the Mix Rescue of Tom Marcovitch's track that appeared in SOS April 2011 (/sos/apr11/articles/mix-rescue-0411.htm).

Mike Senior

The following audio files can be downloaded and auditioned in your DAW. The files are available either as WAV or MP3 — but I'd recommend downloading the larger WAV files for the best quality.

KickUnproc

Here's the kick-drum multitrack without any of its channel processing. The bright, wide stereo ambience of this sample didn't seem to fit with the artists Tom was referencing (in particular Massive Attack), who normally tend to go for drier a heavier-sounding timbres.

KickEdit

The first way I tried to rein in the ambience was to reduce the length of each sample hit with audio editing. While I was at it I also gave the part a bit more musicality by adjusting the volume level of some of the hit slices within the main Cockos Reaper project window. Compare this with KickUnproc to hear the difference.

KickEditEQ

High-frequency EQ cut from Cockos ReaEQ (in the form of a low-pass filter at 3kHz and a further 4dB peaking cut at 4.2kHz) also helped de-emphasise the ambience element of the signal. Compare this with the KickEdit audio file to get a feel for the impact of this EQ on the audibility of the ambience.

KickEditEQMSED

Summing the sample to mono using Voxengo's freeware MSED plug-in was also very effective in reducing the apparent level of the kick's recorded-in reverb, partly because the kick now masked the reverb better, and partly by virtue of phase-cancellation of stereo aspects of the reverb signal in mono. If you compare this with the KickEditEQ file, you can hear that this made a considerable difference.

KickEditEQMSEDSPL

A final stage in reducing the apparent reverb level on the kick sample was an instance of SPL's Transient Designer plug-in, running on Universal Audio's UAD2 DSP processing platform. The setting I used was -9dB on the Sustain control. This was a more subtle change, but if you import this audio file and KickEditEQMSED into your sequencer and directly switch between them, you'll hear that it's still a noticeable change.

BassFinal

Here's the bass within the context of the song's first chorus section. Its processing includes EQ from Cockos ReaEQ (high-pass filter at 20Hz, narrow 3dB cuts 66Hz and 90Hz, and a -4dB high shelf at 1kHz), compression from Stillwell Audio's The Rocket and Universal Audio's VCA VU, and bass enhancement from Universal Audio's Precision Enhancer Hz. In addition, there is a parallel distortion channel active, containing an instance of Mokafix's NoAmp bracketed into a 230Hz-5kHz range using ReaEQ filtering.

BassFinalNoDist

The parallel distortion you can hear in BassFinal was used to help fill out the low end of the guitars and 'glue' them to the bass. So that you can appreciate the contribution of this effect to the final remix, I've bypassed it in this audio file -- compare with the BassFinal example.

BassFinalNoDistEnh

I talked a lot about using Universal Audio's Precision Hz bass enhancer in the main article, so I figured it would be good to demonstrate the effect that this had on the bass sound in context by bypassing this processing (in addition to the parallel distortion channel) for this audio file. Listen to BassFinalNoDist for comparison purposes, and in particular compare how the result sounds on different-sized speakers.

ElectricPiano1

The two different effects used on the main electric piano part can be heard in isolation here. To start with the small edited sections are passed through two separate stereo ping-pong delay patches (Reaper's built-in Delay Pong and ReaDelay plug-ins) with a very warm tone, but as the track progresses the more rhythmic part is treated with a simple crusty-sounding echo from The Interruptor's Bionic Delay, panned across to the opposite side of the stereo field from the dry sound.

ElectricPiano2

The second electric piano part is differentiated from the first using phaser and delay effects (Sandford's Phaser and Cockos ReaDelay respectively) effects, as well as with tonal sculpting from Cockos ReaEQ and Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ.

BVs1

I gave the first set of backing vocals an unnatural-sounding metallic sustain using a 'tunnel-echo' patch (a high-feedback 35ms delay) in combination with Reaper's no-frills ReaVerbate algorithmic reverb plug-in. Cockos ReaEQ was then applied to fit this obvious reverb into the mix balance, using high-pass filtering at 290Hz, a very gentle low-pass filter roll-off above 2kHz, and a 7dB peaking cut at 2.5kHz.

BVs2

I contrasted the second set of backing vocals with the first by boosting the 1kHz region with Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ, adding GSI's CPU-light Time Verb plug-in to each voice as a separate insert-effect instance, and then compressing post-reverb. The effect of this was to create an unusual-sounding reverb with gain-pumping in its decay tail.

DrumsFinal

This example file isolates the full drum sound during the song's first chorus section. The only send effect used was a stereo slap-delay (providing a subtle extra blend and depth), but an additional snare sample was layered in to supplement the backbeats.

DrumsFinalSoloBlend

For this audio example, I've soloed the slapback delay effect return, so that you can hear it more clearly. It was created by using Cockos ReaDelay to generate a simple 55ms stereo echo and then by bracketing that into the 160Hz-6kHz spectral region with the high-pass and low-pass filters in Cockos ReaEQ.

DrumsFinalNoBlend

To demonstrate the effect of the blending slap-delay patch on the drums in the DrumsFinal example file, I've muted that effect return for this audio demonstration. It's another fairly subtle effect, though, so you might want to import both files into your sequencer to A/B them directly if you want to hear the differences most clearly.

DrumsFinalContext

This is what the drums sound like within the song's first chorus section. For comparison with the DrumsFinal and DrumsFinalContextNoSnare files.

DrumsFinalContextNoSnare

This file demonstrates what the DrumsFinalContext audio file would have sounded like without the additional snare backbeat sample I layered alongside. Notice how the backbeat sustain/body suffers against the guitars backdrop in this example, by comparison with DrumsFinalContext file.

SynthsSolo

Here I've soloed the synth pad parts so that you can hear how their contribution varies over time. To start with you can hear Tom's original synth part, although severely high-pass filtered to prevent its tuning souring the overall track too much. At 0:14 it switches to the treblier of my additional synth layers (both from Krakli Software's EZ Poly virtual instrument), and then both play together from 0:29. Then from about 0:44 a third layer joins the fray to fill out the low end of the mix more, until finally both additional layers fade out to leave just the fizzy original track. When you've heard these changes in solo, check out the SynthsContext file.

SynthsContext

This file shows how the synth pad layers you can hear in the SynthsSolo example affect the feel of the central section of the full remix. Because there are so many more interesting things going on in the mix, the effect turns out to be largely psychological, and helps the sense of emotional ebb and flow.

OriginalMix

The original mix of Tom Marcovich's song 'That's Fine', as submitted to Mix Rescue.

Remix

My own remix of the song based on Tom's original multitrack files, but also including additional sounds from Krakli Software's EZ Poly virtual instrument, Nine Volt Audio's Pop/Rock Guitars REX loop library, and Sonic Couture's Tremors sample collection.

If possible, please list the audio files in the same order as the captions below.

KickUnproc

Here's the kick-drum multitrack without any of its channel processing. The bright, wide stereo ambience of this sample didn't seem to fit with the artists Tom was referencing (in particular Massive Attack), who normally tend to go for drier a heavier-sounding timbres.

KickEdit

The first way I tried to rein in the ambience was to reduce the length of each sample hit with audio editing. While I was at it I also gave the part a bit more musicality by adjusting the volume level of some of the hit slices within the main Cockos Reaper project window. Compare this with KickUnproc to hear the difference.

KickEditEQ

High-frequency EQ cut from Cockos ReaEQ (in the form of a low-pass filter at 3kHz and a further 4dB peaking cut at 4.2kHz) also helped de-emphasise the ambience element of the signal. Compare this with the KickEdit audio file to get a feel for the impact of this EQ on the audibility of the ambience.

KickEditEQMSED

Summing the sample to mono using Voxengo's freeware MSED plug-in was also very effective in reducing the apparent level of the kick's recorded-in reverb, partly because the kick now masked the reverb better, and partly by virtue of phase-cancellation of stereo aspects of the reverb signal in mono. If you compare this with the KickEditEQ file, you can hear that this made a considerable difference.

KickEditEQMSEDSPL

A final stage in reducing the apparent reverb level on the kick sample was an instance of SPL's Transient Designer plug-in, running on Universal Audio's UAD2 DSP processing platform. The setting I used was -9dB on the Sustain control. This was a more subtle change, but if you import this audio file and KickEditEQMSED into your sequencer and directly switch between them, you'll hear that it's still a noticeable change.

BassFinal

Here's the bass within the context of the song's first chorus section. Its processing includes EQ from Cockos ReaEQ (high-pass filter at 20Hz, narrow 3dB cuts 66Hz and 90Hz, and a -4dB high shelf at 1kHz), compression from Stillwell Audio's The Rocket and Universal Audio's VCA VU, and bass enhancement from Universal Audio's Precision Enhancer Hz. In addition, there is a parallel distortion channel active, containing an instance of Mokafix's NoAmp bracketed into a 230Hz-5kHz range using ReaEQ filtering.

BassFinalNoDist

The parallel distortion you can hear in BassFinal was used to help fill out the low end of the guitars and 'glue' them to the bass. So that you can appreciate the contribution of this effect to the final remix, I've bypassed it in this audio file -- compare with the BassFinal example.

BassFinalNoDistEnh

I talked a lot about using Universal Audio's Precision Hz bass enhancer in the main article, so I figured it would be good to demonstrate the effect that this had on the bass sound in context by bypassing this processing (in addition to the parallel distortion channel) for this audio file. Listen to BassFinalNoDist for comparison purposes, and in particular compare how the result sounds on different-sized speakers.

ElectricPiano1

The two different effects used on the main electric piano part can be heard in isolation here. To start with the small edited sections are passed through two separate stereo ping-pong delay patches (Reaper's built-in Delay Pong and ReaDelay plug-ins) with a very warm tone, but as the track progresses the more rhythmic part is treated with a simple crusty-sounding echo from The Interruptor's Bionic Delay, panned across to the opposite side of the stereo field from the dry sound.

ElectricPiano2

The second electric piano part is differentiated from the first using phaser and delay effects (Sandford's Phaser and Cockos ReaDelay respectively) effects, as well as with tonal sculpting from Cockos ReaEQ and Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ.

BVs1

I gave the first set of backing vocals an unnatural-sounding metallic sustain using a 'tunnel-echo' patch (a high-feedback 35ms delay) in combination with Reaper's no-frills ReaVerbate algorithmic reverb plug-in. Cockos ReaEQ was then applied to fit this obvious reverb into the mix balance, using high-pass filtering at 290Hz, a very gentle low-pass filter roll-off above 2kHz, and a 7dB peaking cut at 2.5kHz.

BVs2

I contrasted the second set of backing vocals with the first by boosting the 1kHz region with Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ, adding GSI's CPU-light Time Verb plug-in to each voice as a separate insert-effect instance, and then compressing post-reverb. The effect of this was to create an unusual-sounding reverb with gain-pumping in its decay tail.

DrumsFinal

This example file isolates the full drum sound during the song's first chorus section. The only send effect used was a stereo slap-delay (providing a subtle extra blend and depth), but an additional snare sample was layered in to supplement the backbeats.

DrumsFinalSoloBlend

For this audio example, I've soloed the slapback delay effect return, so that you can hear it more clearly. It was created by using Cockos ReaDelay to generate a simple 55ms stereo echo and then by bracketing that into the 160Hz-6kHz spectral region with the high-pass and low-pass filters in Cockos ReaEQ.

DrumsFinalNoBlend

To demonstrate the effect of the blending slap-delay patch on the drums in the DrumsFinal example file, I've muted that effect return for this audio demonstration. It's another fairly subtle effect, though, so you might want to import both files into your sequencer to A/B them directly if you want to hear the differences most clearly.

DrumsFinalContext

This is what the drums sound like within the song's first chorus section. For comparison with the DrumsFinal and DrumsFinalContextNoSnare files.

DrumsFinalContextNoSnare

This file demonstrates what the DrumsFinalContext audio file would have sounded like without the additional snare backbeat sample I layered alongside. Notice how the backbeat sustain/body suffers against the guitars backdrop in this example, by comparison with DrumsFinalContext file.

SynthsSolo

Here I've soloed the synth pad parts so that you can hear how their contribution varies over time. To start with you can hear Tom's original synth part, although severely high-pass filtered to prevent its tuning souring the overall track too much. At 0:14 it switches to the treblier of my additional synth layers (both from Krakli Software's EZ Poly virtual instrument), and then both play together from 0:29. Then from about 0:44 a third layer joins the fray to fill out the low end of the mix more, until finally both additional layers fade out to leave just the fizzy original track. When you've heard these changes in solo, check out the SynthsContext file.

SynthsContext

This file shows how the synth pad layers you can hear in the SynthsSolo example affect the feel of the central section of the full remix. Because there are so many more interesting things going on in the mix, the effect turns out to be largely psychological, and helps the sense of emotional ebb and flow.

OriginalMix

The original mix of Tom Marcovich's song 'That's Fine', as submitted to Mix Rescue.

Remix

My own remix of the song based on Tom's original multitrack files, but also including additional sounds from Krakli Software's EZ Poly virtual instrument, Nine Volt Audio's Pop/Rock Guitars REX loop library, and Sonic Couture's Tremors sample collection.    .


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