Disappointed with the commercial mix of his band’s track, Barnabas Koch sought the help of our tame engineer...
Given my long association with this column, I end up hearing from a lot of people who are unsatisfied with their own mixes. More recently, though, I’m increasingly receiving emails from readers who’ve invested cash in third-party mixing services, but have nonetheless been left with niggling doubts about whether the outcome really does their music justice. One of these was Barnabas Koch, drummer with one of Europe’s hottest traditional boogie-woogie bands. This trio had recorded their latest album in a local commercial studio, and had been excited to hear how well the tracking-session rough mixes had sounded. When the ‘proper’ mixes started arriving, though, the band felt somewhat underwhelmed with the results, and despite the engineer conscientiously making considerable extra efforts to address their concerns, Barnabas in particular felt that the mixes never quite captured the energy, clarity, and dynamics he’d heard in the roughs.
Comparing those two mix versions of one of the songs, ‘Own Way To Boogie’, I could immediately appreciate the difference in character between them, because the rough mix featured more prominent drums, a fuller bass tone, and generally a more direct sound, given the lack of mixdown effects. However, I could also hear some plus points of what the mix engineer had come up with, as the more polished version had better cohesion of the ensemble, a clearer and more defined piano sound, and generally an increased sense of space and sustain overall. Both versions, however, suffered from some low-end inconsistency in the upright bass, and the vocal presentation felt as if it might be improved as well. So I suggested to Barnabas that I try to address all these issues for him by remixing the song from scratch on my own system.
Now, anyone familiar with my usual mixing advice will know that I normally recommend starting work with the most sonically important instrument, which for my money were the drums here, given the kind of the rhythmic momentum I felt the band were...
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