Mixing my first Studio Session

After completing my session in the studio, I saved the files onto my hard drive in order to take home. As I prefer mixing in Logic than Pro Tools I chose to consolidate the audio files and note down the good takes. I have reaped the benefits of consolidation in many of my previous projects as it allows greater flexibility with the audio. Consolidation is the process of adding silence to the start and end of each audio file or ‘take’ so that all the files line up at the same timecode. Effectively, all regions now start and end at the same point. By doing this, it ensures there are no issues with syncing audio together, which helps vastly when there are multiple start points for different tracks.

This is noted by Thornton (2009) who also provides another benefit to consolidation,

‘This will achieve two things. First, it will take the load off the computer, because it is no longer having to chase round your hard drive looking for hundreds of bits of audio. Second, it makes transferring the Session to another person with a different system much easier.’

When I returned home I uploaded the files onto my Macbook Pro and imported them into Logic Pro.

I began by labelling the tracks and then adjusted the E.Q. on the acoustic guitar. This involved applying a basic high pass filter at around 100 Hz on both the acoustic body and neck mics, whilst boosting wide between 2-10khz. This helped reduce any unwanted bass frequencies and increase the presence of the guitar.

‘Cutting some of the bottom end below 100Hz thins out the acoustic guitar sound… all these frequencies in the acoustic guitar track will do is make things a little muddy… A modest EQ boost somewhere in the 5-7 kHz range can add a little presence to the sound.’ (Walden, 2006)

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 13.55.16

I also made a slight decrease in signal at around 200-300 Hz, specifically more on the Body EQ as the main issue with the recording was the ‘boomyness’ that was captured. This was due to the miking techniques used as explained in my previous blog post. My techniques are also supported by Walden (2006),

‘If the guitar sounds a little boomy… sweeping a parametric band from Q through the 100-300 Hz range may help identify where the problem lies. Once the offending frequency is identified… it can be gently cut by 2-3 dB to reduce the problem.’

After this I just adjusted the gain to bring it to a reasonable listening level.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 13.46.40

 

This has definitely improved the acoustic guitar sound, however I wanted to bring out even more top end. To do so I applied the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter and adjusted accordingly. Computer Music states that,

‘As its name implies, the Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter is an exciter, and it adds a treble ‘sheen’ to any signal. This was particularly useful back in the day for pepping up signals that had become dull…’

.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 14.58.59

I found this plug in increased the quality of the recordings dramatically and managed to bring out much of the high end that was missing. I found the noise reduction function incredibly useful as it managed to boost the the treble in the guitar without enhancing the slight scuffs and scrapes from clothing, breaths and general hum that could be found in a similar frequency range. This is what makes the plug in preferable to say just adding further E.Q.

This is shown in the two following audio clips. The first contains the Aural Exciter with the original noise kept in;

The second has the noise reduction function turned all the way up.

It is a stark difference and I’m sure you will agree the second clip produces a far more desirable sound. This is tool that I will not necessarily aim to use, as that implies I’m not recording accurately in the studio but I’m sure it will be useful in situations where the high end could not be picked up at the source.

Following this I created an Auxiliary Bus to house the reverb effect I had planned to use on the guitars as I had recorded them as dry as possible.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 15.39.50         Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 15.42.41

I used Space Designer to find the perfect reverb as it has a wide selection of impulse responses from interesting acoustic locations ranging from real caves to traditional plate reverbs. I decided to use a big church reverb and remembered a technique that David McSherry had taught me in 1st year when applying it. I Increased the reverb to maximum or ‘full wetness’ and reduced the dry input to zero. This meant that when I sent the auxiliary back to the channel the signal returning would be fully wet and increase solely the reverb and not the dry signal. This gives me greater control with the application of reverb and ensures no sudden jumps in volume. This was key as I only wanted to apply a very small amount of reverb.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 16.19.43

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 15.43.02

I employed another E.Q on the auxiliary channel with a high pass filter at 150 Hz. This meant I could add the atmosphere without making the mix seem too muddy. I essentially adjusted the Q until I found a good balance of tone and reverb without the boomyness of the low end.

After Individual mixing on each track I listened to the piece as a whole and set levels and pan positions accordingly. To do so I turned all the tracks down and set levels individually in order of importance. For example starting with the main rhythm acoustic and finishing with the picking guitar. I set the tertiary acoustics panned wide on either side of the mix to promote distance and panned the main acoustic narrower to aid intimacy and stress it’s importance in the mix.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 16.43.50

Finally I compared the two tracks. Going from this,

To this.

Although I find you can never be perfectly happy with a mix, I was extremely pleased with my results after this session. However it taught me a lesson that capturing the right sound at the source is always easier than fixing it in the mix! I’ll make sure I will not make the same mistake again and use these mixing tools as a way of enhancing the piece and not fixing it.

 

References:

Thornton, M. (2007) Tips For Beginners: Digidesign (Avid) Pro Tools Tips & Techniques. [online] SOS. Available from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul09/articles/pt_0709.htm [Accessed 30 January 2015]

Computer Music in Music Radar (2011) Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter. [online] Music Radr. Available from http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/tech/waves-aphex-vintage-aural-exciter-457388 [Accessed 30 January 2015]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>