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Mix Rescue: Timo Carlier | Media

Audio files to accompany the article. By Mike Senior
Published April 2009

Recording simple ideas quickly often helps you to capture a good, fresh-sounding performance — but it can also leave you with frustrating technical problems in the mix. This month, we tackle just such a recording...

MainGtrMicOriginal Audio icon maingtrmicoriginal.mp3 File maingtrmicoriginal.wav

Here's a section of the main raw guitar track, recorded through a Shure SM58 mic. Timo's choice of a dynamic mic was unwise, because the noise performance of this type of mic isn't usually up to the demands of recording something as quiet as this. You can also hear the occasional low-frequency booming (for example at around 0:20 in this audio file) which rendered the guitar's low lines rather uneven.

MainGtrMicProcessed Audio icon maingtrmicprocessed.mp3 File maingtrmicprocessed.wav

Waves X-Noise noise-reduction plug-in was used to bring the hiss levels down, but at the expense of a certain amount of high end. Fortunately, EQ brightening of vocal mic (which had been recorded simulataneously) supplemented this area of the guitar sound somewhat, and EQ boosts at 7.3kHz and 12kHz in Stillwell Audio's 1973 plug-in made up the slack.

MainVoxMicOriginal Audio icon mainvoxmicoriginal.mp3 File mainvoxmicoriginal.wav

Here's the raw audio from the Rode NT1 vocal mic for a section of the main guitar-plus-vocal take. The sound has been dulled by the foam wind sock which was placed over the mic. This was a misguided attempt to stop plosive air blasts from creating low-frequency thumps in the audio, but as you can hear at around 0:13, this wasn't very effective at doing this. The vocal dynamics are very wide as well, which meant that a good deal of compression and level automation was required for the remix.

MainVoxMicProcessed Audio icon mainvoxmicprocessed.mp3 File mainvoxmicprocessed.wav

Here's the same section of audio as you heard in MainVoxOriginal, but EQ'd with Stillwell Audio's 1973 plugin: high-pass filtering at 160Hz and a further shelving cut of 4.5dB at 220Hz removed the plosive problems and some timbral muddiness into the bargain, while a stiff 8dB boost with a 12kHz shelf gave the vocal a much more intimate and upfront feel. Compression was courtesy of a fairly slow-acting 3:1-ratio setting on Waves Neve-emulated VComp, and this was supplemented by extensive fader automation to improve the lyric intelligibility.

MainMicsProcessedWithFX Audio icon mainmicsprocessedwithfx.mp3 File mainmicsprocessedwithfx.wav

This is how the two main mics worked together in the final mix, complemented by a touch of warm plate reverb (an impulse response of an EMT 140 stereo plate running in Christian Knufinke's SIR2 convolution engine).

PickNoiseUp Audio icon picknoiseup.mp3 File picknoiseup.wav

Later in the track, the guitar playing style changed to strumming, and here the pick noise began to become too harsh. This pick noise was actually primarily coming from the vocal mic in the form of spill, so the vocal brightening had emphasised it.

PickNoiseDown Audio icon picknoisedown.mp3 File picknoisedown.wav

Inserting an instance of Waves TransX Multi into the vocal mic allowed me to reduce just the levels of high-frequency transients (in other words the excessive pick noise) during the offending section of the song. Compare this to PickNoiseUp to get an idea of how much effect this had.

BassDrumOrig Audio icon bassdrumorig.mp3 File bassdrumorig.wav

This is the original bass-drum part that Timo sent over as an extra overdub upon hearing the first draft of the remix. It's pretty punchy for such a laid-back tune, and is also playing a very repetitive part.

BassDrumLPF Audio icon bassdrumlpf.mp3 File bassdrumlpf.wav

Here's the same bass-drum sample which I've low-pass-filtered gently from about 1kHz to give a more muted tone. You can also hear the way I've edited and adjusted the part to try to give it a bit more musical meaning. Notice in particular the pick-up beat, which is lighter-sounding than the downbeat.

BassDrumLPFProcessed Audio icon bassdrumlpfprocessed.mp3 File bassdrumlpfprocessed.wav

In the end, I got a bit creative with a couple of envelope-shaper plug-ins (Stillwell Audio's Transient Monster and Reaper's built-in Jesusonic Transient Controller) to transform the tightness of the original sample into something more rolling and sustained. It's not often you get the space in a mix to go with a bass-drum sound like this!

TambOriginal Audio icon tamboriginal.mp3 File tamboriginal.wav

Timo's eleventh-hour tambourine overdub was also problematic, because it was very dry and upfront, as well as having an (admittedly rather endearing) halting feel to the part which was slightly at odds with the vibe of the song as a whole.

TambProcessed Audio icon tambprocessed.mp3 File tambprocessed.wav

Pushing the tambourine back behind the other instruments required some serious EQ cuts from Reaper's ReaEQ: 4.5dB peaking cuts at both 5.4kHz and 8.6kHz, combined with a steady low-pass roll-off from around 5kHz. Silverspike's Room Machine 844 diffused the sound into it's emulated room to soften things further, and then Mda's Limiter rounded off a few level spikes that were still sticking their head above the parapet.

TambProcessedWithFX Audio icon tambprocessedwithfx.mp3 File tambprocessedwithfx.wav

This is the tambourine part as it appears in the final remix. The high-feedback tempo-delay is there simply to try to reduce the impact of the gaps in the part, which otherwise seemed to me to distract too much attention away from the all-important vocal message.

SoloFairyDust Audio icon solofairydust.mp3 File solofairydust.wav

This example solos the subtle 'fairy dust' elements I used to warm and blend the mix: some smooth vinyl noise from Retro Sampling's Audio Impurities plug-in; a couple of low-level synth drones from Reaper's ReaSynth, rounded off using the low-pass filter in the ReaEQ plug-in; and a warm EMT 140 stereo plate reverb running from an impulse response within Christian Knufinke's SIR2 convolution plug-in.

RemixNoFairyDust Audio icon remixnofairydust.mp3 File remixnofairydust.wav

Here's my final remix, but without any of the elements you can hear in the SoloFairyDust example. Compare this with the proper Remix example below to evaluate the difference this achieved.

OriginalMix Audio icon originalmix-0409.mp3 File originalmix-0409.wav

The rough mix of his song 'The Road Ahead' which Timo Carlier originally sent in to Mix Rescue.

Remix Audio icon remix-0409.mp3 File remix-0409.wav

My remix of Timo's song, using not only his original multitrack files, but also a few additional overdubs he supplied towards the end of the mixing process.