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Mix Rescue: Blue Lit Moon | Media

Mixing & Recording Advice By Mike Senior
Published June 2011

These audio files accompany the Mix Rescue feature that appeared in SOS June 2011 (/sos/jun11/articles/mixrescue-0611.htm).

Download | MP3s 28 MB
Download | WAVs 180 MB

The below files are available here for download as both MP3 and WAV files, so that you can audition them all in your DAW.


This is Judd's original verse acoustic guitar recording with just a 20Hz high-pass filter applied. Notice the rampant pick noise and lack of warmth and sustain overall.


I used a dual-band setup in an attempt to deal with the guitar's pick-noise, with the results you can hear in this audio file. I used Reaper's built-in 3BandSplitter and 3BandJoiner plug-ins to divide the guitar spectrum at around 1kHz, and then applied independent instances of SPL's Transient designer to the high and low bands, using their Attack controls to rein in the picking transients by 5dB and 3dB respectively. While I was at it I took the opportunity to fill out the note tails using 3dB and 12dB of Sustain respectively, as well as well as rebalancing the spectrum with a 6dB cut in the higher band's output level. Compare this with AcGtrOrigHPF to properly judge the impact of this rather involved processing.


A number of other processes were applied to enhance the verse's acoustic guitar tone in addition to the dual-band trouble-shooting processing I demonstrated in the AcGtrDualSPL example file. These comprised an instance of Universal Audio Pultec Pro applying a gentle shelf boost at 100Hz and a stiff shelf cut at 5kHz; narrow notch cuts from Reaper's ReaEQ at 440Hz and 1320Hz to rebalance a couple of errant note harmonics; and an instance of Universal Audio Fairchild for general level control and valve 'fattening'.


By the time the whole mix was going, the processed acoustic guitar sound you can hear in the AcGtrProc wasn't quite filling the space that I wanted it to, so I used two tactics to fill it out further. Firstly, I set up a parallel compressor channel containing Stillwell Audio's with particularly viscious settings: a about 10-15dB of gain-reduction at a 20:1 Ratio, with 0.1ms Attack and 72ms Release — fast enough to completely remove any transient information, leaving only sustain elements. This was followed by an instance of DDMF's LP10 linear-phase equaliser, high-pass filtering at around 100Hz. A dusting of unassuming room reverb from 112dB's Redline Reverb plug-in completed the recipe.


Here's a section of the verse acoustic guitar part, processed as it appears in the final remix. Here the fret squeak at 0:03 has been sliced out and independently processed with a -17dB high-frequency shelf at 6kHz to take the edge off it. Although you can hear a few artefacts of this speck of extreme processing when the track is soloed, within the mix the fix is effectively unnoticeable — it's at 2:49 in the full Remix audio file if you want to confirm this for yourself.


To demonstrate the effectiveness of the pick-reduction processing used for the AcGtrFretNoiseProc example, compare it with this file, in which I've bypassed the momentary EQ shelf processing applied just to the offending fret squeak at 0:03.


This is Judd's raw overheads recording, with just 20Hz high-pass filtering applied and the channel pan controls set to reduce the stereo width to 60 percent. The overall tonality was the first problem, with an unattractive low-midrange boxiness and an overly aggressive presence region, but there are also a number of undesirable snare and cymbal resonances.


Dipping out 6dB at both 400Hz and 5kHz with an instance of Melda's MEqualizer remedied the recording's main tonal problems, after which three narrow notches from Reaper's ReaEQ (at 277Hz, 538Hz, and 833Hz) carved away the overbearing resonance components very effectively. Now that the tonal balance is more appropriate, however, some over-zealous high-frequency transients on the ride cymbals have become more noticeable and distracting in the balance.


For this example, I've further applied an instance of Melda's MMultiBandTransient processor to the overheads sound you heard in the OverheadsEQ file, with the aim of smoothing out the ride-cymbal stick transients. Only one active processing band has been used, operating on the high frequencies from 3kHz upwards, and that band's Attack control has been set to its minimum value of -24dB, while the resolution has been set to 5ms (the latter a particularly critical setting in this particular plug-in). Notice that the drum sound is now pretty respectable already, even though you're only actually listening to the overhead mics — always a good sign in my experience!


Here's what the complete remixed drum kit sounded like, although without the global reverb send effect. For comparison with the following drum-processing examples.


Here's the same drum sound as you can hear in the FullKit audio example, but without the snare-drum close-mic's added Melda MReverb room-reverb processing. Notice how the drum now doesn't sound as airy and lacks a sense of blend with the rest of the kit.


Here are the remix snare-drum and its added artificial reverb soloed, so that you can better hear the nature of the effect. The settings are derived from a Small Studio preset in Melda's MReverb plug-in, with its room size slightly increased and stereo stereo image narrowed a little to fit in better with the overheads. Lots of low end was removed below about 250Hz, and a further 8dB notch at 446Hz dealt with an emphasised low-midrange resonance in the reverb tail. Compare with the SnareDrySolo file.


This file is my remixed snare-drum close-mic sound, but without the added Melda MReverb effect. For comparison with the SnareWetSolo file.


This example shows what the FullKit file would have sounded like without its 1kHz low-pass filtering. It's surprising how much this simple EQ move affects the subjective character of the drums, and the clickier kick doesn't seem to be nearly as appropriate to this particular song.


Here's another version of the FullKit file, but this time with all four tom close-mics muted. There are no tom fills at all in this particular section, so all the mics are doing is enhancing the overall kit sound. Later on where there were a few tom fills, automation was used to momentarily rebalance those as required, while still retaining a desirable level of spill elsewhere in the timeline.


So that you can focus on exactly what the spill from the tom mics is adding, here they are in solo. Although it's not the most attractive sound on its own, it does lend a lot of extra life and realism to the overall kit sound of the FullKit audio example file.


Here's a section of my mix-in-progress showing a couple of examples of where over-prominent lip and movement noises from the singer were becoming obtrusive — partly on account of some fairly stiff vocal compression apply in search of an upfront sound.


So that it's easier to focus on, and also possible to hear the spill levels on the track, here's the soloed vocal track for the same section.


In this file I've applied momentary high-frequency EQ cut just between the vocal phrases in order to rebalance the singer's extraneous noises to a more suitable level. Compared with the simpler alternative approach of gating, this has a lot less drastic effects on the track's guitar spill, and hence the overall mixed guitar tone.


Although the action of the momentary EQ processing in the LipNoiseProcSolo audio example file is clearly audible in its own right, once it's placed back into the context of the mix it's not nearly as noticeable, and you can hear how effective it is at dealing with the unwanted noises — compare it to the LipNoiseNoProcContext file for a reminder of how the track sounded pre-processing.


Blue Lit Moon's song 'Dad's Glad', in its original version mixed by SOS reader (and the band's drummer) Judd Meng using the built-in plug-ins in Apple Logic.


Here's my remix of the song, working from Judd's original multitracks within Cockos Reaper.


To demonstrate how my two master-buss 'mix glue' processes (Universal Audio's Studer A800 and the Focusrite Red 3 compressor emulation in URS's Console Strip Pro) affected the sound of the remix, here's a version of it with them both bypassed. Compare this with the main Remix audio file, preferably by importing the WAVs into your DAW system to allow proper instantaneous A/B comparison of the sonic subtleties.