Mixing Upbeat

Whoops, forgot to post this while I was still mixing “upbeat”, and listening to Boards of Canada “Music Has the Right to Children”, Aphex Twin “Selected Ambient Works 85-92″, and Sly Stone “There’s a Riot Goin’ On”. I’ve actually moved on to mixing the last two songs now, they are going to take a little bit more work but we’re almost there.

The “upbeat” to-do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-tweak acid lead track
-fix delay volume automation
-automate chorus amount
-effects/eq/volume on noises
-add reverb to pads/etc
-tweak drums, add effects
-fix percussion sequence chunk fades
-sidechain bass/kick
-do something special in a couple places

Planning

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Mixing Puppy

Finishing up the “puppy” mix and listening to Autechre “Incunabula”, Metamatics “Mind Mushing Git”, and Mouse on Mars “Iaora Tahiti”. The mixes are going faster now, and I’m started to get excited about finishing everything up.

The “puppy” to-do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-adjust basspad volume
-add some phase/flange to the pads
-tweak delay trails on bass
-fix volume automation on delay tracks
-work on reverb presets
-effects/EQ on noises
-trim down noises
-mix needs more depth
-use automated pans instead of tremolo
-adjust volume on bubble sounds
-add special effects to percussion
-add some toms to builds?
-drums need work, listen on headphones
-add delay on drums during builds
-tweak transitions
-emphasize loud/soft dynamics

Planning

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Mixing Rollover

Mixing “rollover” while listening to Orbital “Snivilization”, The Orb “Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld”, and Fila Brazillia “Jump Leads”. Mixing this and “laguna” is taking a little but longer than expected, but I want to make sure they are good, and I want to spend more time making my favorite songs great rather than just polishing up all things that are only okay. I’ve also started listening to all the mixes on headphones and will be tweaking some things based on that. Hopefully these two will be done in a couple more days.

The “rollover” to-do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-make spacy parts spacier
-even out basspad levels
-bounce delay tracks
-automate delays w/feedback on dropoffs
-drums need work
-need a couple more drum crashes
-maybe put in short tom bursts
-work on hats, maybe use replicant?
-compress/distort parallel snare, mix in
-percussion needs something
-tweak those builds
-automate choruses to be deeper at key points
-tweak release times on all compressors
-tweak panning, mix on headphones
-focus on important parts
-emphasize loud/soft dynamics

Planning

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Mixing Laguna

Mixing “laguna” and shooting for lush and dreamy, while listening to ambient-electronic classics Global Communication “76:14″, Higher Intelligence Agency “Colourform” and Ulrich Schnauss “Faraway Trains Passing By”.

The “laguna” to do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-needs to flow more, slower fade ins/outs at transitions
-volume/pan/fx on noises
-level out bass pad
-pad needs something more
-”solo” parts in some sections
-blips need something, maybe edit down
-automate 04counter track delay
-sidechain bass/kick
-more crash/ride?
-pep up the drums
-add some KaossPad-like effects to drums
-percussion reverb
-precision buss compressor on drum bus
-tweak builds
-emphasize loud/soft dynamics
-automate chorus to be deeper at certain parts
-pick a couple places to do special things with effects

Planning

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Sidechain compression

I’ve been tinkering a little with sidechain compression, which is where you use one audio track to trigger the compression on a second track. I’ve been using the Sonalksis compressor since it has this sidechain feature. Alternately, you can use a gate instead of a compressor, so I plan on trying that with the Sonalksis gate plugin.

In electronic music, the most common use for sidechain compression is to compress the bass track whenever the kick drum track comes in. So whenever your kick drum kicks, the volume of the bass ducks down a little, making it easier to hear the kick. This allows you to crank up the volume of both audio tracks without turning the overall song into a big muddy bassy mess.

As a nice side effect it helps subtly lock the groove of the two track together, since they now have something in common. This is mostly what I’m using it for, to get some subtle groove out of these rigid, computer programmed sequences. By playing with the attack and release values on the compressor, you can control how fast the compressor clamps down and lets go, which creates that groove. I am still experimenting with it and trying to find some good settings for each song by ear. Since I’m new to doing this and my brain doesn’t yet know what I “should” be setting things to, I’m just semi-randomly setting things to what sounds good.

The overall effect is fairly subtle, and when done in moderation is one of those things you don’t notice until it goes away. You can see it visually in the picture above by looking at the audio waveforms: the top track is the kick, the bottom track is the bass, the middle track is the bass after being compressed whenever the kick occurs.

The heavy, not so subtle use of this effect is Daft Punk’s signature production technique. Often times they will compress more than just the bass, so you will hear the whole rest of the track compress down whenever the kick hits, which makes everything pump and groove.

I am done with “lemonzen” and “lurp” for now, and put the latest version of lemon up on our myspace page. These songs are sounding pretty good but they will need a few more little tweaks, especially since I started experimenting with sidechain compression at the very end of the mixing process.

I’m trying not to get too distracted by the little things though, so for now I’m going to move on to mixing “laguna” and “bubblepop”. These two songs are the heart of the album, and are where it peaks, so I’m putting a fair amount of pressure on myself to get them right. This has me a little stressed out, but I’m optimistic it will all come together. More on them in a bit.

Effects processing
Technical

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Mixing Lurp

Mixing “lurp” and listening to Future Sound of London “Lifeforms” and “ISDN”, David Morley “Ghosts”, and Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon”. This is one of the darker and weirder tracks on the album, before things resolve with “flicker”, so I’m trying to emphasize that in the mix. In general, things are still going slower than I’d like, but steady progress is being made and this and “lemon” are starting to sound pretty good.

The “lurp” to do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-fx/volume automation on noises
-verb on bleeps
-lead needs something
-fine tune bass volume automation
-chords need work
-lusher pads
-edit blip arrangement at end to transition into “flicker”
-use soundtoys phaser, echoboy
-neve compressor on drum bus?
-snare needs something
-fx/verb on percussion parts
-sidechain bass/kick
-loud/soft dynamics

Planning

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Mixing Lemonzen

Mixing “lemon” and going for a modern, crisp, synthetic sound along the lines of trendy minimal melodic techno like Gui Boratto “Chromophobia”, Booka Shade “Movements”, and Trentemoller “The Last Resort”.

The “lemon” to-do list:
-SIMPLIFY
-fix bass level and sound
-use vapor, liquid, fluid, ricochet plugins for modulation
-use CSR for reverb
-dimension d on delay busses
-reduce delays in some parts to make it more noticeable in other places
-moving delay time on one part?
-eq/fx the noise parts
-pad still needs something
-more effects processing on the drums, especially the synthetic parts
-use the uad precision bus compressor on drum bus
-snare needs something
-maybe more rides?
-pan things wider
-vary width at key points in the song
-automate some pans
-have brief sections where focus drops to one part
-experiment with sidechain compression on kick/bass
-work on loud/soft dynamics

Planning

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The album ain’t quite dead yet

Last week I went to see Liz Phair in concert at the Fillmore, where she performed her classic “Exile in Guyville” album song for song, in order. It was great to hear all the songs again, and there was a good crowd of aging hipsters who were very much into it. It’s hard to believe the album is 15 years old and we’re all getting old. The “album as a concert” trend has been gaining steam, previously I had watched Brian Wilson do “Smile”, and have read about Sonic Youth doing “Daydream Nation” and Pink Floyd performing “Dark Side of the Moon”. Maybe it’s just a marketing gimmick, but even so, if it is drawing crowds that means there is definitely still an audience for the medium of the full length album. Personally, I think it’s great, since most of the time I still stubbornly listen to music this way, album by album.

They’ve also started selling full albums of music you can buy and play in the videogame Rockband. Last week they released the Pixies “Doolittle” (one of my favorite albums of all time) and a month ago they released The Cars first album. I bought both of them, and in both cases it’s really cool to not only be able to play along to the big hits, but also the quirky favorites you wouldn’t expect to be able to get. When people talk about the modern music listening experience, it is all about playlists and the iPod shuffle, but I do still think there’s a place for the full length album.

As far as slowburn the album goes, it definitely isn’t dead yet. “flicker” and “bubblepop” are in “good enough” shape which means they’re pretty much done being mixed. As I continue mixing the other songs I will probably come back and tweak a few parts, but they could be released in their current form and I’d be okay with it. I know that sounds like tepid praise, but at this point, after listening to the songs over and over and over, that’s about the best you can hope for. I’m actually somewhat surprised I don’t outright hate any of the songs yet.

Anyway, if you want to listen to “flicker” it’s up on our myspace page. Next up are “lemon” and “lurp”.

Random

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Mixing Bubblepop

Mixing “bubblepop” and listening to 70’s funk/jazz/soul… Herbie Hancock “Headhunters”, Parliament “Funkentelechy vs the Placebo Syndrome”, Stevie Wonder “Talking Book”.

To-do list for “bubblepop”:
-SIMPLIFY
-balance out bass part volumes
-add EQ/effects to the noises
-automate volume on noises
-maybe blur the pad a little, add delay/verb or CE-1 chorus?
-maybe add some dimension D on voice parts
-trim down the delays/verbs, emphasize a couple parts/times
-bounce drum bus
-use neve comp on drum bus?
-need to add a couple 909 crashes
-add verb/something to toms?
-add verb on snare
-add verb on other perc?
-tweak room verb on drum bus
-add hall verb on pad/chord?
-tweak overall UAD plate verb
-exaggerate the loud/soft dynamic
-automate pan instead of using tremolo
-pick a couple of key points to do interesting things

Planning

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Mixing Flicker

The final mix for “flicker” is coming along, slowly but surely. I’ve been listening to Irresistible Force “It’s Tomorrow Already”, Plaid “Double Figure” and Spacetime Continuum “Emit Ecaps”, and comparing them to the song as I mix it to try to achieve a similar sort of atmosphere and feel. The plan is to do this with each of the slowburn tracks, and pick three of my favorite albums to listen to that have the sort of vibe I am shooting for with that particular song.

While mixing “flicker” I’ve been trying to come up with a general process for doing all the slowburn mixes, so hopefully after this one the songs will go a bit quicker. The biggest thing slowing me down so far has been freezing and tweaking and re-freezing UAD tracks as I mix, which takes six minutes each time I do it. Unfortunately there isn’t much of a solution for speeding that up other than not using those plugins, which is not really an option.

Another challenge has been figuring out how to deal with effects busses, because Logic 7 won’t let me freeze them or send them to other busses. The most common situation I would want to do this is with a delay bus, where I also want to add some of the main reverb to the delayed part. My current solution is to duplicate the audio track being delayed to a new audio track, then put all the same effects as the original on that track plus the delay from the bus plus anything else (EQ, transient shaping, etc) special I used on that bus. Since it is no longer a bus but now am audio track, I can then send it to the main reverb bus, and also freeze it to free up CPU and DSP power. A somewhat annoying workaround, but it lets me do what I want to do.

Logic 8 would let me do all of this directly, by just sending a bus to another bus, but at this point I’m not willing to risk upgrading and running into technical issues. So I’ll stick with this duplicate and bounce strategy for now.

For this final mix stage, the big things I’m tackling for each song are:
-Drum bus processing (compression, EQ, fake room reverb, Kaoss-like effects, volume tweaks)
-Reverbs (overall main reverb, individual verbs on pads and some percussion, ambience for drum bus)
-Volume automation (have loud and soft parts of the overall song, have individual synth parts louder or softer at times)
-Effects automation on key parts (automate amount and parameters of effects on certain parts at certain times)

For “flicker” specifically, my original to-do list looked like this:
-SIMPLIFY
-bounce down delay busses and add reverb
-trim some of the drums?
-add effects, automate volume on crash
-drum weirdness at 109, re-bounce
-trim/automate toms?
-trim some noises, place more in background
-automate volume on ramps
-add vapor effects on some noises
-blip part needs transient/eq/volume work
-extra effects to make a couple parts stick out
-hall verbs on pads
-individual plate verbs for percussion noises
-room verb on drum bus
-main UAD plate verb for all parts
-increase loud/soft dynamic throughout song
-use panning automation instead of auto-pan for some parts
-pick a couple key points in the song to do something particularly interesting

I’m now mostly done with “flicker” and am starting work on “bubblepop”, which was already in good shape, so I should hopefully be finished with both of them by the end of the weekend.

Planning

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