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Help needed with the mix of this song. Thanks!


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  • Help needed with the mix of this song. Thanks!

    I just set this room for home recording including basic minimal room treatment (i.e. the corners). I'm usually in a very tight dark part of another room and this is nice and bright. I got a few addition to the humble gear i had, most importantly decent near field monitors. Also a midi keyboard (I sent back the one in the pic and got a 37 keys one) with a nice sound library (JABB3).


    I recorded tracks to a tune I recorded with a friend. Originally it was just her singing and me playing the guitar. I added shakers, drums, bass, backing vocals (lol) and a modest attempt at piano. You'll notice that the tempo increases (should have first recorded to a click) and don't judge the mix just yet : it's not done at this point. In fact, anyone with suggestions for panning, EQ and whatever would be of great help.


    Here's the clip: http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=12431692


    Music room


    Attached Files
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    Yamaholic --- PpP --- Old geezer with a grey beard

  • #2

    Not bad. I wouldn't worry about the tempo changes too much. Not all music has to be robotically metered to a clock and the slight tempo changes add to the live feel of the music.

    The instrumental is well balanced frequency wise and hear no major problems. The only thing that needs attention is the lead vocals. It lacks the presence it needs to come out front and sounds a bit muffled. There are also some dynamic drops typical with female vocalists that need correction. 

    You need a combination of limiting/compression/and EQing to make the vocals right. Not sure is the mics ambiance is right for the mix either. Even with a very dry mic mix the mics room ambiance (the very short delay of the room) should match the mix.

    As it is now it sounds like an SM57 with a narrow proximity being used and nothing has been done to the raw track. I've worked with female vocalists practically all my life and could make that vocal track really stand out in your match the Jazz like mix. I'm not sure what plugins you have to work with, but I can think of many that will do the job nicely. If you could post the DAW program you're using, I might know what plugins it has that will work best.

    In my case I use Sonar. It has some decent tools to fix the vocals up. You can also use third party plugins and get the job done. A plugin like Voxformer made by Voxengo is a really good one for vocals. It consists of several compressors, EQ, DeEsser, Gate, and Presence adjustments. What I like about it is you can set it up as a dual band compressor using one comp to drive the upper frequencies and one for the lower and adjust the crossover point where it best suits the voice. You can also adjust the overall frequency with the 5 band parametric EQ, and the coolest thing is it has a couple of knobs that adjust the presence of the track. This is a nice feature because you can adjust how much edge the vocals have from smooth to hot.

    That one tool alone would do wonders for the vocals and the presets have good starting points to work from. Voxengo makes great plugins for the price too. I've made live scratch vocals sound like studio takes with them.

    Other tools might be used too. A high frequency exciter like the BBE maximizer could work to add some crispiness to the vocals so it compete with your shakers and cymbals. I'd likely use a limiter or compressor before it then use the BBE to bring the presence up. I've gotten good results using Sonars Vocal Strip on female vocals as well as the Vintage Channel which is a wonderful comp/EQ combination similar to the Voxengo.

    The Vocal strip has a short reverb available in the plugin as well that could fix the mics room sound. I'd probably use something better for that though. There's a site where you can download some great impulse sets for convolution reverb plugins. 

    Not sure if you have a Convolution reverb but SIR has a free one you can download. You can download a bunch of classic impulse sets here. http://rhythminmind.net/STN/?page_id=4188 and you can download SIR 1 here http://www.knufinke.de/sir/sir1.php

    Within the sample sets there are several impulse samples that can be used for the vocal presence of your mix. I'm thinking the Studio Impulse samples would be a great choice. Keep in mind this plugin would be used very prudently. I'd say a maximum of 10% wet and 90% dry might do the trick. The goal is to increase the size of the room the mic was recorded in, not to color the vocals with hard reflections or deep reverbs. The length of the reverb is very short in this case. You simply want to modify the current up close padded closet sound you have now and make it sound like a major studios vocal room and add some of that "Cafe" type flavor to the vocals and get rid of the blanket the vocal track has currently.

    The good part about using a short studio impulse like that is you can add some presence to that reverb and not have to do it all EQing the dry vocal track. You use the reverb to give the Vocals three dimensionality and the intimate dry vocals can still be there. I suggest using normal reverb and EQ so the vocals sound natural / flat  in the mix, then use the short reverb reflection to add some presence up in the highs so its the reflection that fills in up in the higher shaker/cymbal frequencies. Since the reflected frequencies are slightly delayed, it doesn't suffer from masking and creates a three dimensional envelope when the vocals are occurring.

    Again, this is real mild stuff and you have to use your minds eye to imagine what a cafe singers voice sounds like. Your older 1940's music had allot of these techniques used so the vocals would come through over the horns. Black Female Jazz/Blues singers had many similar techniques used too. Its harder to judge those older recordings because the technology wasn't anywhere's near to what we have today, but that up front dryer vocals was a big part of it.

    Don't know if any of these suggestions will help, but I saw a clear picture to getting at a few options happening. Mainly, getting the blanket off the vocal mic is the biggest item, using some compression so you don't hear her backing off the mic or dropping her dynamic levels, then adding a tad of three dimensionality that mixes well with the backing track would be my three main goals. All used mildly and in context with the style of music recorded.

    Good work so far, keep at it.


    • witesol
      witesol commented
      Editing a comment

      a very decent cover of the Norah Jones hit. For how you recorded it, you did a nice job. You sort of went at it backwards in a way, adding the rhythmic elements afterwards. The tones are remeniscient of the orginal. The vocal sound is similar. Of course it's not Norah so you have a different tone to work with. 

      Sure you could tweak it a bit. To me all the panning and EQ might make the mix marginally better but what you can't acheive is anything more than a clearer version. In other words you can't mix this to a better performance. The groove is sort of loose, not as sexy. You mentioned that. The BG Vocs almost took me away from the vibe too. 

      Which brings up a point. Anything that takes the listener awy from enjoying the song, whether it be a mix choice, EQ, performance or any part of the process of recording , can sometimes be good things but more often are not. 


      My biggest issue that takes me away from enjoying it more is the vocal performance. It's pitchy, the scoops are often drug out a bit too much. She sang a good portion of the song in a nasal covered placement. I hear/see that often with femaile singers. Sometimes it allows you to hear yourself in your head chamber better. Part of getting a brighter sound comes right from the singers technique. You can mitigate some of that with EQ. If this was a live performance I'd say it was a good job. It really depends on what the purpose of the demo is; fun, to get gigs, to pitch one's singing, to audition for something, etc? It may not matter one bit otherwise. 

      I know you didnt ask for my $.03 opinion on anything but the mix. In my opinion there is nothing in the mix that sticks out as questionable..