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Mix Rescue: Mixing Metal | Media

Mixing & Recording Advice
By Mike Senior

Hear For Yourself!

The following audio files, downloadable from this site, accompany this month's Mix Rescue feature. The files in the ZIP are in both MP3 and WAV format, and are as follows:

DownloadMP3s | 21 MB
DownloadWAVs | 150 MB

InstrRemix

Here's a section of the remix without the lead and backing vocal parts. A number of EQ and dynamics techniques were used to keep the bass part clear and consistent: EQ on the kick-drum close mic, room mics, and guitars; gating of the kick-drum close mic; and kick-triggered ducking of the bass guitar. Compare with the InstrRemixBypass file.

InstrRemixBypass

This is the same song section that you can hear in the InstrRemix example file, but with the bass-directed EQ and dynamics processing bypassed. Notice how the bass level becomes less consistent, and the overall tonality of the mix becomes a little bloated. The following six audio examples isolate the effects of some of these individual processing stages in more detail.

RoomNotched

In this audio file you can hear just the room mics, processed as in the remix project (but without any of their send effects) using Cockos ReaEQ. This involved a high-pass filter at 40Hz to remove low-frequency rumble, a gentle high 1.5dB shelving cut above around 4kHz to slightly warm the tone, and a narrow notch cut at 74Hz to zap a pitched resonance which was conflicting with the bass part. Compare this example file with RoomUnnotched to hear the effect of the latter EQ band.

RoomUnnotched

This file is identical to RoomNotched, except that the 74Hz notch filter has been bypassed so that you can hear how prominent the unwanted low-frequency pitched resonance would have been otherwise.

KickGate

The remixed kick-drum sound used both EQ and gating, from Cockos ReaEQ and ReaGate respectively. A 20Hz high-pass filter acted as a safety measure against any unwanted subsonic information (but was made very gentle in slope to trim off a little low-end flab too), while a low-pass filter took some abrasiveness out of the drum's attack click. A further peaking EQ dip at 130Hz cleared a little room in the mix for the bass guitar, which had its most prominent frequency energy in that region. For the gating I used 3ms of Pre-open (lookahead) in conjunction with a 3ms Attack time to avoid clipping off any drum transient; set 15s Hold time to avoid any gate 'chattering'; and 68ms Release time to shorten the drum tail to taste.

KickNoGate

If you want to hear the effect of the kick-drum gating, compare this audio example with the KickGate file — all that differentiates them from each other is that I've bypassed the gate here. It's not an enormous difference, but the gating does nonetheless noticeably tighten up the low end, making it feel more urgent.

BassKickDucker

Here's how the kick-drum close-mic and bass guitar part combined in the remix. The kick-drum processing has already been discussed in relation to KickGate file, and the bass own processing comprised simply a high-pass filter and 4-5dB of soft-knee 5:1 compression from Cockos ReaComp. However, a second instance of ReaComp on the bass track was also used to duck the bass part in response to the kick-drum (by feeding the kick-drum to the bass compressor's side-chain).

BassKickNoDucker

So that you can hear how much of an effect the bass ducking had on the combined kick+bass sound, I've repeated the BassKickDucker example for this example file, but with the ducking bypassed. Because of the low-frequency build-up whenever the kick and bass play together, the bass level appears to inconsistent and the kick appears tonally woolly, even though neither sound has these problems when auditioned on its own.

VoxRemix

Here's a section of the final remix, where the lead vocal is aided in cutting through the backing track by virtue of 3-5kHz EQ cuts on various backing parts, most notably on the snare drum close mic and the main rhythm guitar tracks. There's also an instance of the Cockos ReaXcomp multiband compressor operating on the lead vocal in an attempt to even out the raw track's inherent tonal unevenness. Compare this file with VoxRemixEQBypass and VoxRemixMulticompBypass.

VoxRemixEQBypass

In this audio example you can hear how the clarity of the remix's vocal sound would have suffered had presence-region EQ cuts not been applied to the guitar and snare drum tracks. Compare this with the VoxRemix file.

VoxRemixMulticompBypass

This demonstration file shows how the vocal track's multi-band compressor affected the vocal tone. Notice how the timbre of the phrase 'Don't look into these eyes if you want to stay free' is noticeable thinner-sounding than the previous phrase, for example. While the multiband processing you can hear in the VoxRemix file doesn't totally solve the problem, it nonetheless makes the vocal much more consistent.

EffectsRemix

Here's a section of the final remix, complete with all its nine send effects: three reverbs, a Harmonizer-style stereo widener, and five delays (including a Haas-effect stereo-widening delay patch). Although that might seem quite a lot of send effects, each performs quite a specialised task, so they don't clutter the mix unduly. Compare this example with the EffectsRemixBypass file.

EffectsRemixBypass

This is the same section of the final remix as heard in the EffectsRemix demonstration file, but this time with all the send effects bypassed, so you can get an idea of how much they contributed to the overall sound.

Gtr2Dry

This audio file shows the sound of the secondary double-tracked rhythm guitar layer. Both guitars have been panned quite close to the centre of the stereo image.

Gtr2Haas

Here's are the same tracks heard in the Gtr2Dry file, but with a 25ms Haas delay stereo-widening effect applied to them. Each guitar's delay return has been panned hard to the opposite side of the stereo spectrum to give a characteristically wide and slightly diffuse stereo picture.

Gtr1

Here are the primary double-tracked rhythm guitars on their own. They are both panned fairly wide, but not right to the stereo extremes so as not to unduly compromise mono compatibility.

GtrsAll

This is the combined rhythm-guitar sound as it appears in the remix, with the secondard guitar layers (and their Haas delay effects) mixed in with the primary layers at a fairly subtle level, adding a modest amount of 'centre-fill' to the guitar picture as well as extending the stereo image right to the edges of the field.

OriginalMix

Here's the original mix of this month's Mix Rescue submission, an old-school heavy metal song called 'Promises & Lies' written by Johnny Lokke, and performed by him, drummer Glen Lyons, and lead guitarist Carlos Arcay Fernandez.

Remix

My remix of 'Promises & Lies' based on Johnny Lokke's original multitrack files. It was carried out on the Cockos Reaper DAW platform, and no additional samples were added — unusually for a Mix Rescue!    

Published January 2011