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Mix Rescue: Jokers, Jacks & Kings | Media

Mixing & Recording Advice
Published April 2012
By Mike Senior

The audio files that are downloadable on this page accompany the Mix Rescue column for SOS April 2012, featuring the song 'Sea Of Leaves' by the band Jokers, Jacks & Kings. The filenames should be self explanatory, but the descriptions on this page should help you understand a little more about what you're hearing.

Mix Rescue | SOS April 2012 - Jokers, Jacks & Kings by Sound On Sound

OrigVerbSnare

For this file I've soloed the effects return of one of Alex's snare reverbs — a treatment from Universal Audio's EMT 140 analogue plate emulation. Although this plug-in is one of the more sought-after reverbs available, it wasn't a particularly suitable choice in this instance, providing little blend or sense of acoustic space, while muddying the timbre of the instrument undesirably. I muted it completely for the remix.

OrigVerbToms

Another less-than-natural-sounding reverb was used for a tom-tom effect, this time Universal Audio's emulation of the venerable EMT 250 digital hardware. Again, this effect was precious little use for cohering these close mics with the kit, but was instead primarily just cluttering the low midrange of the overall kit sound with its rumbling sustain tail. Muting this as well cleaned up the remix drum sound significantly.

RemixVerbDrumSpaceSolo

In place of Alex's two unsuitable vintage-style reverb patches (which you can hear in OrigVerbSnare and OrigVerbToms audio files) I chose a more natural-sounding patch to try to glue the close mics in with the overheads and room mics, and to provide a larger sense of space. The plug-in I used for this was Cubase's built-in Reverence convolution reverb, running the 'NY Studio A' preset, adding 35ms of predelay to avoid too much tonal shift and then equalising the Middle component of the stereo return with DDMF's LP10 plug-in to remove some unwanted muddiness in mono.

RemixVerbDrumSpaceIn

Here's a section of the final remixed drum sound, complete with the Cubase Reverence convolution reverb you can hear in the RemixVerbDrumSpaceSolo file. Compare this with RemixVerbDrumSpaceOut to get a feeling for how much better the kit blends with the effect — it sounds more like a single instrument and less like a collection of close mics!

RemixVerbDrumSpaceOut

Here's the same section of drum mix as you can hear in the RemixVerbDrumSpaceIn audio file, but without the Cubase Reverence convolution reverb showcased in the RemixVerbDrumSpaceSolo example.

ParaCompEnvShapeIn

Here's the parallel compression effect that was used to widen and fill out the drum sustains, as it appears in the final remix. It was created by hitting Universal Audio's Neve 33609 compressor emulation hard at a 2:1 ratio, and then following the compressor with some MS processing from Voxengo's MSED (a 6dB lift in the Sides component) and a stiff dose of attack reduction from Cubase's built-in Envelope Shaper plug-in.

ParaCompEnvShapeOut

Here's the same parallel compression effect you can hear in the ParaCompEnvShapeOut demonstration, but without the Cubase Envelope Shaper effect at the end to round off the unwanted transient spikes that had been let through on account of the emulated Neve 33609's attack characteristics.

TBFeroxOut

Here's a section of the full drum sound from the final remix, but without the Toneboosters TB_Ferox tape emulation plug-in that I applied over the drums buss channel. Although the sound is perfectly respectable without this process, the transients feel overly hard-sounding to me in this context, and the overall tone somehow a touch too 'spindly'.

TBFeroxIn

This is the same section of the final remix drum sound as in the TBFeroxOut audio file, but for this example I've reinstated the Toneboosters TB_Ferox tape-emulation plug-in. I drove this pretty hard, pushing the meters well into the red, to round out the transients, and as luck would have it the inevitably tonal side-effects of this abuse turned out to be beneficial to the overall kit timbre — as you can hear, the snare and kick become thicker and weightier, while the cymbals also smooth out noticeably.

BassBlueCatEQIn

I mentioned in the main article how I applied a 10dB midrange peaking EQ boost to the bass part using Blue Cat's freeware Triple EQ plug-in, but that in practice this didn't cause nearly the kind of drastic tonal change you might expect given that setting. To illustrate this, here's a section of the final mix with that bass EQ boost in place, so you can hear it in context. Now compare this with BassBlueCatEQOut to hear it bypassed.

BassBlueCatEQOut

For comparison purposes, here's the same section of my final remix you can hear in the BassBlueCatEQIn audio file, but with the 10dB midrange EQ boost from Blue Cat's freeware Triple EQ plug-in bypassed.

GtrsChorusOrig

Here's the sound of the full chorus-section guitar mix from the Alex Hunt's original mix. Although there's nothing to fault it when heard in solo, within the context of the full mix the 3-5kHz region proved to be too powerful, which had tended to dull the vocal and drum sounds, as well as giving the whole mix an unpleasant edge of harshness. In addition, the tone was simply a bit too aggressive for the kind of anthemic sound the band were hoping for.

GtrChorusRemix

This audio file showcases the full guitar sound from the chorus-section of my final remix, complete with the surreptitious Embracer synth pad layer. On the face of it, a lot of people (me included) would consider this sound significantly less appealing in isolation, but in practice the rather homogenous blend and lack of presence were important ingredients in making the full remix sound expansive without excessively compromising the quality of the drumkit and vocal sounds.

VocalsChorusOrig

This is a soloed submix of all the vocals from the final chorus of the original mix, complete with all their effects. For me there were two main problems with them: firstly, a woolly-sounding Universal Audio EMT 250 plug-in reverb patch and a 16th-note mono delay were clouding and narrowing the mix unattractively, and reducing the sense of vocal clarity; and, secondly, the backing-vocal balance was quite inconsistent, on account of dynamics control being applied only on their group channel.

VocalsChorusRemix

Here is the complete vocal submix from the final chorus of my remix. In addition to some corrective editing and EQ tweaks, the main changes involved: ditching the EMT 250 and 16th-note mono delay patches in favour of a stereo tempo-sync'ed quarter-note treatment; underpinning the lead vocal with a 'fake' double-track edited from the lead vocal during the previous chorus section; and applying per-channel compression and de-essing to each of the backing vocals to solidify their balance prior to the communal group-buss dynamics.

BassRidesOut

This snippet from the final remix demonstrates how the bass balance would have sounded without the fader automation I applied towards the end of the mixdown process. Now compare this carefully with the BassRidesIn audio example which follows.

BassRidesIn

Here's the same section of the final remix as you heard in the BassRidesOut audio file, but this time with the bass fader automation reinstated — notice how the low end feels subtly more consistent (especially during the chorus), as well as supporting the musical dynamics more intuitively.

BussCompRideOut

Towards the end of the mix I decided to adjust the settings of the buss compressor to encourage it to pump a little more obviously, but the downside of this was that it tended to reduce the level of the whole mix unduly when the fuller texture of the chorus section arrived, as you can hear in this example. My solution to this was simply to push the mix slightly harder into the compressor for the choruses, and you can hear the effects of this in the following audio file, BussCompRideIn.

BussCompRideIn

Here's the same 'pre-chorus to chorus' transition section as you heard in the BussCompRideOut audio example, but this time with the final little bit of automation I added — a 0.7dB level ride into the buss compressor for the chorus section. I implemented this using GVST's simple freeware GGain plug-in, inserted into the Cubase mixer's master channel before the buss compressor (Cytomic's The Glue). For such a small volume hike, it makes a surprisingly large subjective difference to the long-term mix dynamics!

OriginalMix

This is the original mix of 'Sea Of Leaves', by the band Jokers, Jacks & Kings. It was sent in by SOS reader (and band member) Alex Hunt, who had mixed it himself using Steinberg's Cubase and a selection of plug-ins, many from Universal Audio.

Remix

Here's my final remix of 'Sea Of Leaves', which was also carried out in Steinberg Cubase, but (contrary to Mix Rescue norms) picking up the mixdown from where Alex had left off.  

Published April 2012