'Fall On Me'
- Written by Chad Vaccarino, Ian Axel, Fortunato Zampaglione and Matteo Bocelli.
- Produced by Bob Ezrin.
Surprisingly, the final Pro Tools session for 'Fall On Me' contains only 25 active tracks, plus about the same number of inactive orchestral tracks. The active tracks consist of, from top to bottom, five mix print and master tracks, two tracks of Andrea Bocelli vocals, three tracks of Matteo Bocelli vocals, a piano track, an orchestra live track, a low strings aux track, five instrument overdub tracks, an orchestra 'AIR Reprint' track (which is muted), plus three reactivated orchestra tracks, one with 'cello and two with bass. At the bottom are three aux effect tracks, with Valhalla Plate, Audio Ease Altiverb (on the Haydn Hall preset), and UAD EMT 140 reverbs. Notable in the session is that by far the most plug-ins are used on the two vocal tracks.
Cortelyou: "Other sessions look pretty similar, though particularly the tracks with programming are a lot denser. I normally put the vocals at the bottom of the session, just above the aux returns, but in this case, because the vocals were so important and we were looking at them so much, it was annoying to scroll down all the time, so we put them near the top. Although we were working on the vocal tracks for most of the time, we also were working on just the sound of the strings, or listening to the interplay between the piano and whatever else was going on. So we'd sometimes mute the vocal to see what was going on underneath, making sure there were no conflicts, and that we captured all the little runs and passes. But the vocals were definitely the main focus."
"There are five vocal tracks because Andrea and Matteo sang some doubles, and also when we were in Nashville, some production decisions were taken about where to use Andrea's and where to use Matteo's vocals. Matteo re-sang the first chorus, which is the third track. We used slightly different EQ than on the previous take. The vocal chains we used on the two of them are different from any other vocal chain I have done! Andrea's vocal chain starts with the Massenburg Designworks EQ, with just a low cut and adding some high end. Next is the Eiosis e2 de-esser, cutting around 6kHz; the UAD Fairchild 670, not doing very much, only compressing in some hot spots; the Manley Massive Passive EQ boosting some high end; and the Maag EQ2, doing a sub low cut and adding some more air.
"All three aux reverbs were used on Andrea's main vocal track, as well as on Matteo's vocal tracks, because the reverbs each have different characteristics and it was all about getting the right blend. The Haydn Hall makes it sound a bit more like in the big hall at AIR, and the Valhalla Plate is a little brighter and not as dense. The EMT adds some warmth. We always played around with these three to get the right combination of colours. I had this vocal chain on Andrea's vocal in every song on the album, though there will have been slight differences in settings.
"Matteo's vocal chain was very similar, apart from that I replaced the 670 with the Neve 33609. It was definitely a process to get the right chain and the right settings to make sure Andrea's and Matteo's vocals worked well together. We had to make sure they retained their own sonic characteristics, and at the same time that they fit with each other. We also worked a lot on that with Ed Sheeran's and with Dua Lipa's voices, which were each recorded on completely different setups. Getting each to match with Andrea's vocals took a little bit more work."
"I believe we used the demo piano on this song, and all we had on it was the Avid EQ7. Next down in the session is the 'live mix' orchestral stem from AIR, which also has the EQ7, and by the time we got used to that, we found there was a bit of a build-up around 300Hz, which we dipped with the Massenburg EQ, which is my go-to EQ. I love it for carving, especially on strings, as it's so transparent and doesn't get phasey. Then there's the Waves PuigTec, for some shimmery top‑end air, and it also has a send to the Valhalla Plate, which is incredible. It's one of my favourite reverbs, and costs just $50! Once again, trying to find the right environment for everything was a big deal. It had to sound natural and also have the air that fits the song.
"Below the orchestral stem is a 'Low String' aux track, to which the 'cello and bass tracks further down are sent, and on which I again have the Massenburg EQ. Next down are some overdubs — the orange tracks are horns, and there's an articulate high string pass and a concert bass drum pass. The blue track below that is the 'AIR reprint' track, the print of Bob sending our mix again through the Neve at AIR, which we didn't use. So it's muted. The greyed-out tracks are all the individual orchestral tracks, which all went through the 'String Pass A'. You can still see all the plug-ins we applied to that, which was us trying to get the sound right! The 'cello track further down has the UAD API 560 and again the Massenburg EQ, and the two bass tracks have the Massenburg as well. We fit these tracks in with the main orchestra track."
"The master track at the top is coming off the Burl summing mixer and Lavry converter, and then I print it on the track below that. If I am doing an Alice Cooper track or something like that there might be a couple of plug-ins on it, maybe an EQ, or if it is in the box mix an SSL two-bus compressor, and I will then print that, and that's what I send to mastering. But on this case I had nothing on the two-mix. Purely for playback for clients I do fake mastering by sending the track to the aux below it with the Slate FG‑X, so it gets a little bit of a level boost, a little bit of a mastering polish, so clients don't go into their cars and say: 'Hey, why is it so quiet?'
"We used Bob Ludwig to master Si, and he is a genius. When we first started out we wanted to make sure that we were getting the most out of the gear that we were using. So we printed through the Burl Mothership, which is a fantastic converter, but it also adds a little bit of colour. We did a shootout with a few different converters, and we ended up with the Lavry, because it sounded identical to what we monitored right off the summing mixer. We also sent mixes printed through the Avid IO, the Burl and the Lavry to Bob Ludwig, and he was very helpful in getting the right converter for the A-D stage, and he agreed it was the Lavry."
Originally from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, Justin 'Corky' Cortelyou started his music career at high school, playing trombone in the school's symphony orchestra. He went on to study music and engineering at Middle Tennessee State University, and following this he worked at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville and with studio legends like Chuck Ainley and Mike Shipley.
"When I was at Sound Stage we used Pro Tools basically as a tape machine," recalls Cortelyou. "This was in the very early '00s. We also had RADARs and DASH digital tape recorders, and one Studer A800 analogue 24-track. When I mixed songs in those days, every track would come up one to one on the console, and I'd use console automation, and outboard. When I then moved to LA to work with Mike Shipley, it was all in the box. But I definitely like working on a console, especially for tracking, as it's much easier to do things like dial up a quick cue mix for the drummer, or if I like the sound I get on the monitor side, I can instantly switch that over and print it. In fact, Johnny Reid and I recently acquired the legendary SoulTrain Sound Studios in Nashville, which is a two-minute walk from Anarchy, and we've bought an SSL 4000 E-Series desk, and some real killer outboard to kit it out with.
"The way I got to work with Bob was that after I moved to LA to work with Mike Shipley, I met a songwriter and producer named Tommy Henriksen, who developed artists and got them signed to major labels. I started working with him, and in 2008 we moved to Nashville. I think it was in the first or second week that we were in Nashville that Bob wanted to sign an artist who we had developed in LA to his Bigger Picture label. In the end the deal did not happen, but Bob was working on Peter Gabriel's record Scratch My Back, for which Lou Reed was doing a version of 'Solsbury Hill', and Tommy and I worked a little bit on that. Following that I started working for Bob a lot, while Tommy is now the guitarist for Alice Cooper and the Hollywood Vampires, and lives in Switzerland. I've been working with Bob ever since. I am a freelance engineer, but Bob has been one of my top clients for almost 10 years."
Cortelyou: "We did an interesting test when we did the Canadian Tenors record, Lead With Your Heart . This was in the days of Pro Tools 10, and we were mixing on the SSL AWS. I was working in 88.2kHz and printed one mix at a high resolution, 88.2, and then downsampled the whole session to 44.1 and ran the exact same mix across, printing at 44.1. The lower sample rate was actually better. It had more width. The difference was not just subtle, it was amazing. So for years I was a proponent of staying low-res.
"I don't know why 44.1 sounded better at the time. I had theories that maybe it was overloading the mix bus, or maybe the clocking wasn't as good, but I honestly don't know. These were just guesses. But the difference was drastic on Pro Tools 10. But since Pro Tools 11, and now Pro Tools 2018, hi-res has become much better. I have taken sessions that were recorded at higher resolutions, and converted them down by half, and with Pro Tools 2018, the lower resolution sounds a little bit flat. So I stay at the higher sample rate unless somebody sends me a session to mix, in which case I will just stay in whatever resolution they were working in."
"In the case of Si, the label also wanted everything at 96kHz, so they could send the album out to HD tracks and so on. All audio tracks were 96/24, and I printed the mixes in that resolution. But it's so sad that it all ends up on MP3! Maybe the HD format and vinyl still keep a sense of quality in audio alive. I certainly enjoy it. I still love to listen to great-sounding records with some great speakers or great headphones. We have a pair of the Sennheiser HD650s, which sound amazing, and I have Grado SR325s that I have used for ages, and that I listen to and get lost in. I just close my eyes, and that is my escape into the sound!"