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Mix Rescue: Preslin Davis | Media

Mixing & Recording Advice By Mike Senior
Published February 2010

Here is a selection of audio files to accompany this month’s Mix Rescue of Preslin Davis’ track, ‘Side Effects’ Warning: Parental Advisory. You can listen to these as MP3s in the media player in the main article ( or can download from this page as CD-quality WAVs for more critical auditioning in your DAW.

Kick Orig Audio icon kickorig.mp3 File kickorig.wav

This file shows what Preslin's supplied kick-drum part sounded like before I began any of the remix processing. While not a bad-sounding kick-drum sample as such, it was definitely too soft-sounding for a Dr Dre-style hip-hop production.

Kick Proc Audio icon kickproc.mp3 File kickproc.wav

This is the same kick drum as in the KickOrig file, but with 9dB of extra attack from Stillwell Audio's Transient Monster plug-in to try to give it some punchiness. As you can hear, it didn't make a whole lot of difference, so I decided to supplement it with an additional sample.

Kick Added Sample Audio icon kickaddedsample.mp3 File kickaddedsample.wav

This is the sample I added in alongside Preslin's to create the very different remix kick sound. It's originally a sound Big Fish Audio's Platinum Essentials 2 hip-hop sample library, but I've also taken the time to adjust its duration in each instance (using the audio editing tools in Cockos Reaper) to try to increase the sense of musical flow in the groove as a whole.

Bass Orig Audio icon bassorig.mp3 File bassorig.wav

The original bass sound can be heard in this example, and the problem with it for this mix was that its main energy was located in the 100-200Hz region, an area of the frequency spectrum more commonly used for kick-drum power in the Dr Dre productions that Preslin was referencing.

Bass Added Sub Audio icon bassaddedsub.mp3 File bassaddedsub.wav

In order to generate more of the bass-note fundamental frequencies, I programmed the MIDI notes into Reaper and then triggered its built-in ReaSynth plug-in to supply an additional fundamental-heavy layer. This was then carefully limited with Universal Audio's UAD2-powered Fairchild 670 plug-in to keep its contribution to the mix tightly under control.

Bass Proc Audio icon bassproc.mp3 File bassproc.wav

Once the additional sub-synth later had been added into the mix, I could concentrate on emphasising the character of the original bass line with Reaper's ReaEQ (2.5dB and 5dB peaks at 410Hz and 1.9kHz respectively) and Universal Audio's 1176LN limiter -- the latter also kept the position of this bass layer solid in the mix. However, I also carefully adjusted the frequency and slope of a high-pass filter on this channel at various stages while the mix was in progress, in order to achieve just the right balance of low mid-range where the two bass layers overlapped.

Kick Bass Audio icon kickbass.mp3 File kickbass.wav

Here's a longer section of kick and bass combined, processed as they appear in the final remix. Note in particular how the kicksub-bass levels of the two sounds interact when they're together, compared to when each instrument is playing alone -- this was one of the more critical balance judgements to be made with this particular mix.

Beat Audio icon beat.mp3 File beat.wav

This file isolates a section of the beat as it appears in the remix, so that you can more easily hear how the different arrangement and processing tweaks fit together. Some things to listen for here are the kick and hi-hat phrasing; the varied spot effects on some individual percussion hits, and their tempo-related cut-off points; and the additional reverb-effect swell which complements Preslin's own reverse cymbal part.

Suck Drop Audio icon suckdrop.mp3 File suckdrop.wav

This is a short section of the final remix, where you can hear the effect of me editing out the backing guitar feedback sample just during the rapper's word 'suck'. Compare this file to SuckNoDrop.

Suck No Drop Audio icon sucknodrop.mp3 File sucknodrop.wav

The same little section as you can hear in the SuckDrop example, but with the guitar feedback part left unedited for comparison.

Harp 1 Audio icon harp1.mp3 File harp1.wav

This is a section of the first draft of my remix that I sent to Preslin for his comments. Most of his comments were straightforward to deal with, but the harp sound (you can hear two phrases of it here) proved tricky to nail down. Here the harp was judged much too thin and lo-fi, so I decided to go for a more natural rendition on my next attempt.

Harp 2 Audio icon harp2.mp3 File harp2.wav

Here's the first revision of that harp sound, which I created by using (and editing) Preslin's original MIDI file to trigger a more natural and classical sound from a Garritan orchestral collection, passing that through a big concert hall ambience running in Christian Knufinke's SIR2 convolution engine. This seemed closer to what was required, but Preslin felt it needed less attack and more of a 'crystalline' quality.

Harp 3 Audio icon harp3.mp3 File harp3.wav

The next version of the harp sound was closely based on the previous one, but with some transient-reduction processing (courtesy of Reaper's built-in Jesusonic Transient Controller plug-in) and less low end. Despite these changes, it became clear that the sound still wasn't right yet, and it seemed to me that there was probably some inherent quality of his Preslin's original audio part that was important here, so I ditched the idea of reprogramming the sound and returned to processing the raw multitrack file afresh.

Harp 4 Audio icon harp4.mp3 File harp4.wav

This was the fourth version of the harp sound, which this time I took in a more special-effect direction in response to further email discussions I'd had with Preslin. In pursuit of the idea of a 'liquid' sound I chose some heavy compression from Jeroen Breebaart's PC2 Psychoacoustic Compressor plug-in and further transient processing from Transient Controller; while the comment that the sound could 'wrap itself around the mix' informed my guess that wide modulation and reverb treatments might fit the bill. But still no luck! Such obvious special effects weren't the order of the day.

Harp 5 Audio icon harp5.mp3 File harp5.wav

And finally, here's the fifth version of that harp sound, where we finally arrived at a successful conclusion. Compression and transient control still played a role, as did some of the more subtle modulation effects and background noise from the previous version, but the aim was to keep the sound closer to that in the original version of the mix -- a sound that I'd mistakenly assumed was undesirable. Still, all's well that ends well!

Original Mix Audio icon originalmix-0210.mp3 File originalmix-0210.wav

Here's Preslin Davis's original mix of his hip-hop track 'Side Effects', as submitted to Mix Rescue.

Remix Audio icon remix-0210.mp3 File remix-0210.wav

Here's the complete final version of my remix, based primarily on the same multitrack files -- Preslin retracked his vocals for the remix. During the process of remixing, I also added of an extra kick-drum sample, a sub-bass synth part, and some sound-effect samples such as the crowd noises in the final verse.