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Mix Rescue: Chris Durban | Audio Files

Hear For Yourself By Mike Senior
Published May 2009

Ever wondered why your beats can't compete with commercial mixes? We show you how to nail them... without losing sight of the song.

Kick Original Audio icon kickoriginal-0509.mp3 File kickoriginal-0509.wav

The kick drum sample that Chris had used was too soft-sounding to cut through a mix like this, the sound's extreme low frequencies (around 50Hz) were compromising the punchiness of the song's rhythmic groove.

Kick Processed Audio icon kickprocessed.mp3 File kickprocessed.wav

In processing Chris's sample, I boosted the initial transient of each hit in the first instance, using Stillwell Audio's Transient Monster and Reaper's Jesusonic Transient Controller, and also reduced the level of the sustain. This fairly severe processing robbed a bit too much bass from the sound, so I compensated with a 5dB shelving boost at 60Hz with Stillwell Audio's Vibe EQ.

Kick Processed Plus Sample Audio icon kickprocessedplussample.mp3 File kickprocessedplussample.wav

Once the rest of the tracks began to be added into the mix, it became clear that the kick sound would not cut through in the midrange without some extra help. Boosting these frequencies in Chris's original drum sample wasn't creating a pleasant sound, so I opted instead layer in a truncated snare-drum sample over the top. Compare this file with KickProcessed to hear the difference this made.

Bass Original Audio icon bassoriginal-0509.mp3 File bassoriginal-0509.wav

Now that the processed kick drum was leaving more room at the low end of the mix, the lack of sub-bass frequencies in Chris's raw bass track were a problem. However, there was also very little midrange energy in the part either, which meant that it couldn't maintain its clarity in the mix against the drums and other instruments.

Bass Processed Audio icon bassprocessed-0509.mp3 File bassprocessed-0509.wav

The first task was to excavate any midrange information in the recording, and that was achieved by large midrange and high-frequency boosts from Smartelextronix Nyquist EQ followed by heavy treatment with Reaper's ReaXcomp multi-band compressor. As you can hear, the result pretty much sounds like I've added a new synth layer, but all this information was actually in the original file.

Bass Processed Plus Sub Audio icon bassprocessedplussub.mp3 File bassprocessedplussub.wav

To boost the sub-100Hz portion of the bass sound and also increase its rhythmic definition, I simply layered in a new supporting sub-bass synth underneath. This came from Reaper's simple built-in ReaSynth plug-in, passing through a low-pass filter running in ReaEQ.

Drums Mix With Para Comp Audio icon drumsmixwithparacomp.mp3 File drumsmixwithparacomp.wav

Here is the full drums mix as it appears in the remix. Parallel compression and saturation (from Stillwell Audio's The Rocket and Wurr Audio's Tube Booster) was used to achieve more of a pumping compression sound without compromising the attack of the kick drum and snare. Compare this with DrumsMixNoParaComp.

Drums Mix No Para Comp Audio icon drumsmixnoparacomp.mp3 File drumsmixnoparacomp.wav

To demonstrate the effect of the parallel compression and saturation processing in DrumsMixWithParaComp, I've bypassed the processing for this file. It's worth noting that the peak levels of these two files are almost identical.

Backing Mix With Ducker Audio icon backingmixwithducker.mp3 File backingmixwithducker.wav

Another technique I used to help the kick drum definition in the mix was ducking, whereby the levels of a variety of other tracks (mostly cymbal and synth parts) were reduced automatically during each kick hit. Compare this with BackingMixNoDucker.

Backing Mix No Ducker Audio icon backingmixnoducker.mp3 File backingmixnoducker.wav

This is the same section of the mix as in BackingMixWithDucker, but with the ducking effects bypassed. This resulting reduction in the kick-drum's clarity is small but nonetheless significant.

Background SFX Mix Audio icon backgroundsfxmix.mp3 File backgroundsfxmix.wav

Once all Chris's parts had been added to the mix, I felt that there was some more scope for arrangement variety, so layered in some extra special-effect sounds under a few sections of the song. Here is one such section of the final remix. Compare this with BackgroundSFXMuted.

Background SFX Solo Audio icon backgroundsfxsolo.mp3 File backgroundsfxsolo.wav

Here I've soloed out the added special-effects elements so that you can hear them in detail. The high lead line and rhythmic beds are from Heavyocity's great Evolve Kontakt Instrument, while the metal-stress noises are from Best Service's XFX film special-effects sample library.

Background SFX Muted Audio icon backgroundsfxmuted.mp3 File backgroundsfxmuted.wav

Here's the same section of the remix as in BackgroundSFXMix, but with the special-effects elements in BackgroundSFXSolo muted, so that you can evaluate how much difference they make to the mood of the track.

Full Mix No Deessing Audio icon fullmixnodeessing.mp3 File fullmixnodeessing.wav

This is a section from the final chorus section of my remix, without the vocal-triggered ducking I later set up on the hi-hat parts. Notice how the levels of vocal sibilance at some points, particularly towards the end of the file, are quite uneven, on account of their combination with the hi-hat parts.

Full Mix With Deessing Audio icon fullmixwithdeessing.mp3 File fullmixwithdeessing.wav

By triggering compressors on the hi-hat parts from the vocal sibilance frequencies, I was able to make the apparent levels of vocal sibilance more consistent without having to excessively de-ess the vocals themselves.

Original Mix Audio icon originalmix-0509.mp3 File originalmix-0509.wav

Chris's original mix of his song 'Celebrate', which he sent in for the Mix Rescue treatment.

Remix Audio icon remix-0509.mp3 File remix-0509.wav

My remix working from Chris's original multitrack files.