The audio files available on this page accompany the Mix Rescue column for SOS March 2013 (/sos/mar13/articles/mix-rescue-0313.htm), featuring the song 'Rothko' by the Berkshire-based band The Wrong'uns. The filenames should be fairly self-explanatory, but the descriptions below should help you understand a little more about what you're hearing. In addition to these demonstrations, you can also download both the raw multitrack files and my full Cockos Reaper remix project from the 'Mixing Secrets' Free Multitrack Download Library at http://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms-mtk.htm#WrongUns.
Here are the acoustic guitars from the song's second chorus, edited a little for timing and panned to 60 percent left/right, but otherwise unprocessed.
For safety's sake I high-pass filtered each of the acoustic guitar parts at 75Hz with Cockos ReaEQ, and also applied a -3dB shelving filter set to around 220Hz to thin out the overbearing lows. Some gentle but fast compression via a 1.1:1 low-threshold setting in Focusrite's helped to reduce the dynamic range fairly transparently. Compare this file with AcGtr00_Raw to hear the effects of this processing.
Although the processing you heard in the AcGtr01_EQComp file was a step in the right direction, the main process used to shift the tone of the acoustic guitars in the remix was freeware distortion: parallel instances of SimulAnalog's Tube Screamer and AcmeBarGig's Tamla Head for the left and right instruments respectively. Some further EQ tweaks were implemented via boosts with ToneBoosters's TB_Equalizer plug-in, comprising two peaks on the left-hand instrument (2dB at 865Hz and 1.5dB at 1.95kHz) and combination of one peak and one shelf on the right-hand instrument (3dB at 1.88kHz and 4dB at 7.37kHz). Finally, Reaper's Jesusonic Exciter was strapped across both channels, its distortion engine at 50 percent drive above 10kHz, but with only a 10 percent mix level to avoid scratchiness.
In the AcGtr02_ParaDistEQExciter file the parallel distortion channels are panned to the same stereo location as their undistorted source channels. However, I couldn't resist widening the image of each instrument slightly by panning the distorted return a fraction wider to each side — as you can hear in this audio example. To appreciated the subtle widening effect, import the WAV into your DAW and compare it side by side with that of the AcGtr02_ParaDistEQExciter file.
Although there no real sense of the acoustic guitars having a distorted sound within the context of the full mix, that wasn't because I wasn't driving the distortion processors hard enough, as you can hear in this audio example, where I've soloed just those parallel effect channels. The reason the distortion isn't that audible in the final remix texture is simply that the levels of these two channels were kept very low compared with the levels of the undistorted channels.
A parallel instance of Focusrite's Scarlett Compressor plug-in served to add sustain and a little subjective warmth to the combined acoustic-guitar sound. This compressor used a -24dB threshold and a 4:1 ratio to trigger around 10-15dB of compression. The medium-fast 2ms attack and 175ms release times caused this signal to sound pretty jumpy in solo, but given that the return channel's level was about 18dB down compared with the main source signal, the final effect in the remix was actually pretty subtle, as you can hear if you compare this audio example, with the AcGtr03_ParaDistPanning demonstration file.
Here's the final acoustic guitar sound as it appears in the remix, complete a dose of the main early reflections reverb patch, courtesy of Magnus Jonsson's Smartelectronix Ambience plug-in. Here I've also inserted the significant master-buss 'smile EQ' curve that I applied at the mix-referencing stage to compensate for underwhelming frequency extremes. This involved a general spectral tilt using 9dB of boost at 20kHz with a 0.25 Q value, two octave-wide peaking cuts (4dB at 2kHz and 2dB at 220Hz), and a slightly narrower-band 2dB peaking boost at 131. These setting are more than I'd normally want to be applying to my master buss, but in this case I'd misjudged the tone of my first-draft mix while acclimatising to a new monitoring system.
This audio example shows what the main electric guitar part sounded like without any processing (save for the general master-buss EQ I mentioned in the caption to the AcGtr06_EffectsMasterEQ file).
I dug out some of the midrange from the raw electric guitar sound with a 5dB peaking cut at 245Hz, but otherwise left the high-pass filter on that channel down at a fairly conservative 66Hz. To keep the part well rooted in the rhythm texture I gave it a lot of compression — 10-15dB at a 2:1 threshold — using attack and release times of 14ms and 35 respectively. If you compare this audio demonstration with the ElecGtr00_Raw file, however, you'll hear that it's not as extreme as it appears on paper, because the dynamic range of an overdriven electric guitar like this is already quite restricted.
A little parallel distortion from Aradaz Amp Crunch gave the electric guitar tone a touch more presence. Compare this audio demonstration with the ElecGtr01_EQComp to judge the difference this caused.
This audio example illustrates the Haas delay effect I used to spread the guitar sound across the stereo image. The delay time in this case was 18ms, with no feedback at all, and without any EQ in the delay return path. The panning of the effect channel was panned a little wider out than the dry channel, to centralise the combined stereo image subjectively speaking.
I mentioned in the caption to the ElecGtr04_HaasDelay audio file that I panned the Haas delay return channel wider to subjectively centre the instrument's stereo picture. This audio example desmonstrates what the guitar would have sounded like had I not done this, so you can compare the two sounds and decide for yourself how important this tweak was.
Here's a section of the dry processed vocal sound from the remix, but without any of the additional measure I used to combat the sporadic upper-spectrum harshness — which you can hear particularly on "launch and thousand ships”, "so aim your poison dart”, and "hurt me”.
Tackling the sporadic piercing quality of the tone in the LVHarshnessProcOut file involved several stages. First I applied dynamic 2dB peaking cut at 4.5kHz from 112dB's Redline Equalizer, turning the plug-in's Phase Shift control to zero for a slightly clearer-sounding result. Then I inserted an instance of Cockos ReaEQ with two bands of high-frequency EQ at 3kHz; a high shelf and a narrower half-octave-wide peak. These I automated independently using my DAW's mix automation facilities to target the harshest notes manually. Finally, all those EQ cuts lost me some brightness on the vocal as a whole, so I reinstated this with a broad 4dB high shelving boost at 18kHz from Variety Of Sound's freeware Baxter EQ.
Here's a section of the mix without the main global send effect: an early reflections patch from Magnus Jonsson's Smartlelectronix Ambience plug-in. Although the balance functions fine without any additional reverb effects, I decided to add something simply to make the ensemble feel a bit more 'glue together' acoustically speaking, more as if they'd been performing together, rather than building the arrangement via overdubbing.
For this audio example I've soloed the final remix's early reflections return channel so that you can hear its characteristics clearly. The Decay Time was set to 508ms, with no diffusion and a 26ms pre-delay. Bass and treble damping were set at 870Hz and 4.2kHz respectively, and although small EQ cuts were also applied to the frequency extremes at 77Hz and 8.2kHz as well within the algorithm I supplemented these with 270Hz high-pass filtering and a 1.6dB high shelving cut at 3.4kHz to make the effect even more understated tonally.
This is the combination of the AmbienceOut and AmbienceIn files, showing how the subtle early-reflections reverb patch sounded within the context of the final remix.
This is the original mix of The Wrong'uns' song 'Rothko' which was carried out in a small commercial studio directly following their recording sessions.
This remix of the multitracks from one of the band's guitarists, Rob James. Although more open-sounding than the mix they took out of the studio with them (the OriginalMixStudio audio file), the band as a whole felt that it still sounded too much like a demo — hence Rob's appeal to Mix Rescue.
My remix of 'Rothko' working from the same original multitracks, using the Cockos Reaper DAW and a variety of mostly freeware third-party plug-ins — the main exceptions being URS Console Strip Pro, which I used as a master-buss EQ, and 112dB's Redline EQ, which I used in dynamic-EQ mode for some lead-vocal trouble-shooting. Some cymbal samples were also added, courtesy of Sample Lab's 'Drum Fundamentals' collection.