These audio files accompany the Mix Rescue article in SOS March 2020, featuring the song 'Muddy Water' by Dorothea Wessel.
These audio files accompany my Mix Rescue: Rearranging article in SOS March 2020, featuring the song 'Muddy Water' by Dorothea Wessel. The filenames are fairly self-explanatory, but here are some additional notes to describe exactly what you're hearing in each case.
You can download the full Cockos Reaper project file for this month's remix at www.cambridge-mt.com/ms/mtk/#DorotheaWessel, where you can also find the song's raw multitrack recordings if you fancy remixing it for yourself.
This month's song is 'Muddy Water', by Norwegian singer-songwriter Dorothea Wessel. The acoustic guitar part was played by Emily Zimmer, but all other recording and programming was carried out by Roger Wessel.
Roger's raw kick drum sound had a strong, resonance sub-60Hz component, which overwhelmed the main bass synth's fundamental frequency, as you can hear if you compare this audio example with the mr_02_low_end_02_bass_synth_raw file.
This is what the song's main bass synth sounded like without any processing. It's comprised of a pulsing lower rhythm and an upper-spectrum pad component, but unfortunately the former element had a very lightweight fundamental frequency, which didn't feel like it supported the chorus's harmonies sufficiently, and the rhythmic feature was just making the low end appear sluggish and inconsistent.
In addition to the main bass synth, an additional bass-guitar part was also provided, and this is what it sounded like in its unprocessed form. Although it has a nice rhythmic drive to it, the sound's overpowering lower harmonics prevented it being faded up high enough in the mix to have much of an impact without making the overall tonality muddy.
Here's the way I change the main bass synth sound for my remix. Firstly, I added a simple subsynth part from Cockos ReaSynth to give the note fundamental some proper power, and then EQ'ed Roger's bass synth to focus more on its pad-like qualities using Cockos ReaEQ (for lower-spectrum cuts to combat muddiness), Toneboosters TB_Equalizer (to remove some low midrange from the sound's stereo Middle component), and Stillwell Audio Vibe EQ (to give the midrange frequencies a bit more attitude in the mix).
Now I've added my remixed kick-drum sound to the bass foundation heard in the mr_04_low_end_04_proc_sub_bass file. To keep the sub-60Hz low end under control, I've high-pass filtered the kick-drum at 25Hz in Cockos ReaEQ, and gated it with a fairly high threshold and fast release using Cockos ReaGate -- so I'm not only reducing the kick's extreme LF levels, but also shortening their amplitude envelope.
There's already plenty of low-spectrum energy in the previous audio file (mr_05_low_end_05_proc_sub_bass_kick), so I deliberately targeted the bass guitar part into the midrange instead, using Stillwell Audio Vibe EQ and Cockos ReaEQ on the track itself, as well as a parallel distortion channel featuring Creative Intent's Temper plug-in. I also had Stillwell Audio's The Rocket compressor on both of the channels to keep the instrument's balance solid, and some fast 6:1-ratio compression above 2kHz to smooth out some unwanted mechanical noises.
Here's the final remixed vocal sound, but without any of its send effects so that you can hear the channel processing on its own. Although the vocal's high-frequencies have been assertively boosted with Sonimus SonEQ Pro for a super-breathy, intimate sound, the consonants have been kept under control by editing them to a separate track with independent EQ processing and level automation. To hear what it would have sounded like without these precautions, check out the mr_08_lead_vox_02_deessing_out audio file.
Here's the final remixed vocal sound, although this time I've left all the consonants on the main track, so that they pass through the same processing chain as the vowels. As you can hear, the sibilants in particular get pretty fierce!
Here's a section of my final remix with the vocal parts (and all their effects) soloed, so you can appreciate the nuances of the effects I used -- more than a dozen different patches in total. Notice also how the effects levels on the lead vocal vary throughout the verse and into the chorus, on account of my mix automation. During the choruses, quite a few of the parts you're hearing were also generated during the mix process using audio copy/paste techniques and pitch-shifting software.
In this month's remix, I used several different approaches to breathe more life into this song's pad parts. In order to demonsteate the sonic and musical impact of these methods, let's first have a listen to a section of my final remix with the vocal parts muted, so it's easier to hear the details in the backing texture.
In order to add detail, stereo interest, and a great sense of organic musical ebb and flow, I created a 'patchwork quilt' of synth and sound-design elements based on virtual instrument presets from Heavyocity's Evolve and the internal library of Native Instruments Kontakt. Here's what that sounded like in isolation. (You can hear it in context in the mr_10_sound_design_01_synths_context audio file.)
Compare this example with the mr_10_sound_design_01_synths_context audio file to hear the impact that my synth 'patchwork quilt' (as heard in the mr_11_sound_design_02_synths_solo audio file) had on the mix.
To increase the sense of rhythmic complexity and cohesion in the programmed drum parts, I layered in an abstract sample-based percussion loop from Ueberschall's Groove Shadows Elastik virtual instrument. In addition, I mixed in some cymbal- and gong-roll transition effects to heighten the momentum into the beginning of each chorus section. To demonstrate the difference these made to my remix sound, I've muted them in this example -- compare it with the mr_12_sound_design_03_percussion audio file, where all of these percussion elements are still present.
Even before I introduced any sound-design elements or samples of my own, I already tried to make Roger's two existing pads more rhythmically propulsive using ducking techniques. For the main bass synth, I applied an automated resonant low-pass filter Tal Filter II, whereas for the strings pad I used simple audio editing methods. For this example, though, I've removed both those treatments, so you can compare it with the mr_13_sound_design_04_pad_modulations audio file and get an impression of the difference they made in practice.
Roger had tried correcting the main verse acoustic guitar part's timing using his DAW's time-stretching facilites, but this resulted in a smeared transients and unappealing chorusey side-effects, as this example demonstrates. (Note that no other mix processing has yet been applied here at all.)
Instead of using a time-stretching algorithm, I decided to implement the necessary timing-corrections on the acoustic guitar part using simple audio-editing within Cockos Reaper -- just the usual cut/paste/crossfade tools every DAW now has. If you compare this example with the mr_15_acoustic_guitar_01_warp_edit audio file, you'll notice how much clearer my version sounds (even though I've not applied any other mix processing), and I hope you agree that any minimal editing artefacts that remain are a negligible price to pay for such a timbral improvement.
As mentioned in the article, I ended up feeding some of the snare-drum's channel signal directly to the master outputs, thereby bypassing the compression on the drums group buss and the mix's master buss. However, at the last moment I realised that phase misalignment was hollowing out the lower midrange of my snare sound, as you can hear in this example.
By inserting a 110Hz high-pass filter from Cockos ReaEQ into the direct-to-output snare feed, I was able to shift the signal's low-frequency phase response and (somewhat counterintuitively) regain a more solid lower midrange for the snare timbre. Compare this example with the mr_17_snare_bypass_phase_01_hpf_out audio file to hear the impact of this change.
This is the mix of 'Muddy Water' that Roger originally sent in to Sound On Sound, asking for advice about the low end, vocal sound, and long-term mix dynamics.
Here's my final remix of Dorothea Wessel's 'Muddy Water', carried out on my own Cockos Reaper-based DAW system in conjunction with third-party plug-ins from Audio Damage, Blue Cat Audio, Brainworx, Celemony, Creative Intent, Cytomic, Dead Duck, Fabfilter, GVST, Infected Mushroom, Izotope, Klanghelm, Lexicon, Martin Best, Melda, Native Instruments, TAL Audio, Tokyo Dawn Labs, Toneboosters, Schwa, Sknote, Slate Digital, Sonalksis, Sonimus, Stillwell Audio, Ursa DSP, Valhalla DSP, Voxengo, Waves, and Wavesfactory.