Nerve 9: we show you how to add depth and body to a basic mix.
Back in SOS December 2014, I wrote a ‘Session Notes’ column about working with the band Nerve 9 on the lead-vocal production on their classic-rock power ballad ‘Pray For The Rain’. Following those sessions the band were keen for advice on how to improve their mix, so I decided to mix the project for them too, working in Steinberg’s Cubase (their own DAW of choice).
The guitar and bass parts had been recorded by band members Thomas Stevenson and Chris Lawson respectively, and they’d added live drums using one of those remote online overdubbing services. Although the performances were uniformly fine, the timbre was a touch stodgy overall, so I immediately inserted an instance of Softube’s Summit Audio EQF100 equaliser plug-in on my master bus to tackle this, using a broad shelving boost above 10kHz and some peaking cut around 180Hz.
With that master EQ in place,lead singer Kelly Orr’s tone was nice and airy, which was great, but it occasionally crossed the line to ‘abrasive’, so I took a little time to experiment with finessing the timbre. Whenever I’m after tonal coloration, my instinct is usually to try emulations of analogue gear, so I first tried running the vocal through a few different compressors, blending their outputs to taste — an approach which has the advantage that it’s often good at pinning down a consistent vocal level in the mix. Having set up channels for seven different compressors, I ended up using mainly EAReckon’s FR-Limit 87 and Stillwell Audio’s Major Tom, supported with a bit of Softube’s FET Compressor.
Staying in a similar vein, I auditioned a few other timbre-enhancing plug-ins. LSR’s Tubenhance delivered a hardness that wasn’t what I was looking for, while ToneBooster’s TB-Ferox tape emulation (a perennial favourite of mine) also drew a blank — the airiness vanished whenever the virtual tape started doing any useful smoothing. Third time lucky, I achieved something more promising from the Exciter section of...
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