You are here

Please comment on this classic mix

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:13 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT7LcO_VX-w

I feel this mix gets a lot of things right that I would like to incorporate into my music.

What I hear is that I can always make out the base line.

The drums are tight and the rythm guitar is always easy to understand what he adds.

When the vocals come in with harmony, I can still hear the rythm parts.

Synth comes in, and I can hear him and follow him.

There is also reverb on some tracks but not others. The track-specific reverb helps me hear each track.

It all adds up.

It grooves.

It's tight.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:30 am

The first thing it got right is that it came out in the '80s. That aside, and being serious...

In the early '80s, there were no DAWs, recording studios were THE thing, they were expensive and they were usually staffed by experienced people who knew what they were doing and who knew the gear in their racks intimately. Gear and time was expensive and people in the industry generally tried to minimise both.

The track you link isn't my 'go to' genre but I'm enjoying listening to it, even if critically. The first thing that strikes me is how lean the mix is. There are no walls of sound, no massive synth layers and the parts that there are are straightforward in engineering terms.

I'm not hearing dozens of tracks and the effects are subtle but effective, mainly being noticeable on the drum track.

Good use of stereo imaging on the backing vox gives a real 'spread' on the chorus breaks. I think the bass is played live, though it's executed with a great sense of timing and does sound very synth-like much of the time.

There is a synth part or two in there but so precise and 'non-flashy' that you hardly notice them, though you would if they weren't there.

in short; a conservative mix, not a lot of tracks, very good performances by musicians and singers who know what they're doing, minimal effects and (not to be underestimated) a composition and arrangement very representative of the time.

Add an (almost certainly) decent analogue desk and all the voodoo that entails, an engineer who knew what they were doing and a good environment and you're about there.

Plus it was in the '80s. Did I mention the '80s? :tongue:

Footnote: To be fair, I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been the '70s either.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Moderator
Posts: 4354
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:49 am

Thank you!

There is a certain three-dimensional separation of the instruments that really appeals to me

I can hear everybody! If I had to tel you what everyone is doing I could do it.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:13 am

In the 80's most people were limited to 24 tracks (although the really ambitious might use 48 but that wasn't common until later in the 80's). This means that you really need to think about what you are going to use those tracks for. 8 of those tracks would probably end up being drums and on that mix you have the bass synth, bass guitar, claps (or 2?), picked guitar (or 2?), electric piano, brass synth, vocal (and doubled lead vocal I think), backing vocals (4?), second and third lead vocal that come in from time to time, a smooth whistle in the middle 8. I make that 25 tracks so maybe there's only one guitar with a panned delay. If that was mixed on a computerised mixing desk you also need to allow a track for a sync code too.

The players and arrangers would have been pros who would have been working on this sort of material for a long time - anyone in London who listened to Greg Edwards on a Saturday night or Robbie Vincent would know that there was an awful lot of very similar material being made at that time and the sounds on that track are pretty standard for the style.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 9363
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:14 am

Although I was being slightly humerous in the manner in which I couched my reply, the real takeaway as I see it consists of three things:

Firstly, "Less is more". The number of tracks laid to tape in that mix are probably less than many people these days use for drums alone. Far fewer effects were used than on a typical mix today. It was before the 'loudness wars' so there is some dynamic range in there (though it's deliberately mixed/mastered a little hot) and the performances were tight which leads to ...

Secondly, "Good performers are worth their weight in gold". The better a performance is at source, the fewer things need to be done to it. If it sounds good out of the microphone/instrument then the mix engineer really only needs to balance it against the other tracks. Sure, maybe a compressor here, an effect there, but really a good performance from a talented performer is better than any gear or plugin you can buy.

Thirdly: "Arrangement is key". Whoever arranged that track kept it lean, mean and efficient. There is good use of 'spot interjections' from the synth keys and brass parts, the harmonies on the vocals are spot on and the track itself has great energy even with relatively few chord progressions. The chord progressions that are in there remain simple, but are enhanced significantly by the use of pleasing harmony.

I don't know the history of the track but several people involved in creating it knew their respective onions, that's for sure.
User avatar
Eddy Deegan
Moderator
Posts: 4354
Joined: Wed Sep 01, 2004 12:00 am
Location: Brighton & Hove, UK
Some of my works.
Please consider supporting the SOS Forum Album project.
 

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jun 16, 2020 1:29 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:Secondly, "Good performers are worth their weight in gold". The better a performance is at source, the fewer things need to be done to it. If it sounds good out of the microphone/instrument then the mix engineer really only needs to balance it against the other tracks. Sure, maybe a compressor here, an effect there, but really a good performance from a talented performer is better than any gear or plugin you can buy.

From personal experience I'd have to echo this. I discovered an outtake of

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98GvG8oTI48

on a 2" multitrack I'd been sent for a completely different band. The sound and the feel were all there when I pushed the faders up (though all the overdubs were missing).
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 9363
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:50 am

It's not the mix.

If you went to see this band live, it would sound pretty much exactly like what you are hearing here. It's 99% the performance and arrangement.

You can hear the bass because it was arranged that way, not because it was mixed that way. It's a great bass sound because the kick drum and bass guitar pattern is a well worked out and rehearsed formula that these players don't even think about. The harmonies are clear because the singers are top notch and the voicings are tight. After that, just put up the mics and don't mess it up.

Talking about the limits of a 24 track, or the sound of tape or analogue desks is kind of wrong-headed IMHO. Recording and mixing in this case is about capture.
User avatar
Tomás Mulcahy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1774
Joined: Wed Apr 25, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Cork, Ireland.

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby CS70 » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:54 am

DC-Choppah wrote:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT7LcO_VX-w
I feel this mix gets a lot of things right that I would like to incorporate into my music.

Well, it's just to do it then :)

Really, jokes apart, the important bit is to be aware of what you want in a mix. That drives any decision from arrangement to recording to performance to which tracks to use and when and where the mute button comes in,.

It's not really hard to do - arrange the piece with space for each part, perform it well, bring stuff in and out as required. The advantage nowadays is that to a degree - if an element is a little less than 100% good, you can fix it a bit (which as, as said, much harder back then) and make it work as it was.

While this is usually disparaged (and rightly so, because of abuse and because it encourages sloppiness in sloppy people, or in the unaware), it's actually an amazing thing if used with purpose. In any art, from music to photography to filming, but also totally off stuff like construction or material engineering.

Again, it's a matter of awareness: if you know where the bar is, you know what's the distance between what you have and what it should be, and at any moment you take the best decision to reduce that distance, hopefully to zero. Including, of course, rehearsing more and re-recording if needed.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 5569
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jun 16, 2020 12:05 pm

The groove is lovely and stands up today, it's only when the vocals come in that the track immediately sounds dated. But I get what you are saying DC, there is an exceptional clarity about the mix. I could probably listen to the whole 6 mins plus without the vocals, the cheesy vocals actually spoil it for me.

FWIW I used to try to play similar stuff back in the day in various restaurant and function bands, needless to say nowhere near as well as this.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12791
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Jun 17, 2020 2:08 am

Tomás Mulcahy wrote:It's not the mix.

If you went to see this band live, it would sound pretty much exactly like what you are hearing here. It's 99% the performance and arrangement.

You can hear the bass because it was arranged that way, not because it was mixed that way. It's a great bass sound because the kick drum and bass guitar pattern is a well worked out and rehearsed formula that these players don't even think about. The harmonies are clear because the singers are top notch and the voicing are tight. After that, just put up the mics and don't mess it up.

Talking about the limits of a 24 track, or the sound of tape or analogue desks is kind of wrong-headed IMHO. Recording and mixing in this case is about capture.

Now that you mention it, I am not hearing any overdubbing. So by only playing the parts they can play live, the arrangement is naturally limited to what that group can do in real time. I had not thought of that.

Listening again, I am hearing the way this music was performed where they can hear each other as they play. It's live music, played by people who WANT to hear each other. So they naturally don't step on each other and have organically developed the arrangement and groove so they don't step on each other. The arrangement works itself out by a group that is trying to hear each other and generate a groove collectively. It's an organic process.

Hope that makes sense.

With that organically good groove and arrangement happening, it just had to be captured correctly (an art and craft in itself). There are some enhancements as the mixer adds his own creative flair to the sound (reverb here and there, and subtle effects). He is like another band member, respectful of the organic groove.

I remember hearing lots of bands like this and you are right they strove to sound great live. They tried to capture that goodness I am hearing in a live context.

Maybe that is a good way to think of an arrangement? It sounds good to the people playing it. They can hear each other and take turns interjecting on top of the groove structure.

I can't help think that this process has roots in live jazz.

The rythm section lays down the compelling groove, then the other join in and take turns playing so they can hear each other.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xi27zn7YNFo
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Jun 17, 2020 5:10 am

Live version
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6gr_L4EopQ

Song starts at 11:20 from this jazz fest footage.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Wed Jun 17, 2020 3:11 pm

What I hear is that I can always make out the base line.

This is not unconnected with the fact that it's far and away the loudest thing in the mix, especially before the vocals come in!
User avatar
Dr Huge Longjohns
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3643
Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Gallifrey
"The performance is 99.9% of what people hear"- J. Leckie
"It's all complete nonsense, anyone who knows what they're doing can deliver great results with whatever comes to hand" - H. Robjohns

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Thu Jun 18, 2020 1:22 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:
What I hear is that I can always make out the base line.

This is not unconnected with the fact that it's far and away the loudest thing in the mix, especially before the vocals come in!

Thanks for that. The bass is loud. But it works.

I don't hear the bass reduce in volume as the rest of the instruments and vocals come in. So he has carved out a place for the bass. Nice.

I wonder what is happening here, an electric bass plus a synth bass played on the keyboard?
Sometimes the bass and synth separate and you can tell there are two instruments. But they try hard to stay tight together. And when they separate, one instrumenty 'solos' while they other lays back.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby DC-Choppah » Thu Jun 18, 2020 1:25 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:
What I hear is that I can always make out the base line.

This is not unconnected with the fact that it's far and away the loudest thing in the mix, especially before the vocals come in!

Listening again, I do hear the bass come down when the vocal comes in.

Thanks for that!
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1450
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am
Location: MD, USA

Re: Please comment on this classic mix

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu Jun 18, 2020 5:51 am

DC-Choppah wrote:What I hear is that I can always make out the base line.

Yes and on all sorts of speakers! But why? A lot of it is because of the higher harmonics. I'm not sure whether what we hear is a bass guitar plus other instruments doubling the bass line or not, but even on leaking earbuds, or a tinny phone speaker we still hear the bass line because it extends right up into the mids.

When I was a kid in the 60's I listened lots to my little transistor radio with its squeaky 2" speaker. No real bass whatsoever. In 1968 this track Elouise by Barry Ryan used to come on the radio. From 3:35 there's a very short bass slide up - totally exposed. On my trannie - and probably every other similar trannie in the world - just silence. Even with no other instrument playing (no masking to worry about) I still couldn't hear the bass slide. At home on our big radiogram the bass came back again!

https://youtu.be/xAQjTgI8R5I

Listening or Auratones might have helped pick this problem out, but a good engineer or producer would have picked this lurking problem out even on full range monitors - if they were listening not just to the music and the groove but also to the sounds of each instrument. A good operator is able to imagine how a certain sound will translate - or not - to lower fi systems.
Tim Gillett
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2131
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:00 am
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Next