Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tyrannosaurus Mouse Mixing Day

We mixed from noon to 8pm on Sunday (including getting some delicious Mexican food) with the amazing Eric Rachel at Trax East Studios.
That's right, we mixed the entire album in one 8-hour day.
What did I learn from the experience? These things:

  • We had the whole band present for the mix. Honestly, I'd never done that before. It was nice having other people's opinions on things. Plus, with our band it meant that we didn't take a lot of time discussing things, we just did them and by-and-large, agreed.
  • I have been way over-exposed to the whole album for the past year. I have somewhere near no distance. I was thinking "just let Eric mix the record". Indeed, Eric did just mix a few songs. But you really can't tell which ones we all had hands on, and which he just did himself.
  • Ethan had a fairly strong hand in mixing the record. This was awesome. Remember that he had come in at some point in the last few months in order to make selects and decisions regarding his bass tracks. This was relatively early in the process (after we'd recorded, but before mixing). But in the final mix he had a number of ideas with the levels and EQ of the drums (mostly snare and kick) and levels. 
  • I was worried about too heavily "effecting" the guitars, vocals, and keyboards. Nobody complained about there being too much compression on any of them. And the effects on the guitars and vocals were very heavy. We added no additional compression to the vocals in the mix. I'm happy that my decisions did not result in egregious yukkityness once we got to mixing.
  • Ethan has a strong "Ask the drummer what he thinks of the sound"-type ethos regarding the mix. This is counter to the way I usually think, which is to get a consensus about sounds from everyone or get the opinion of a neutral third party. I'm not saying that one way is better than the other, it's just interesting and informative. By and large, Ethan prevailed. For instance: if Arie hated a keyboard part, Ethan's attitude was "If Arie hates it, we should delete it."
  • I made one big error. A huge section of the keyboard tracks for the Mouseverture was out of sync. But, in my defense, it was out of sync for about six months and nobody in the band noticed it. What we had to do is mix the song both with and without the keyboards. Then I went back and fixed the edit and re-exported just the keyboard track. I think I have fixed them to the band's liking. We'll find out. 
  • We used very little in the way of outboard effects in the final mix. Which doesn't mean there aren't a lot of effects in the tracks But all of the delays and reverb on guitar, vocals, and keyboards were composited into the final mixing tracks from within Samplitude. This included a fair bit of compression.
  • I hadn't pre-compressed the bass at all. But we did add software-based "1176"-type compression to the bass in the final mix. It was very light.
  • The kick and the snare went through (what else?) a couple DBX 160's. I believe that no other specific compression was used for the drums. The rest of the drums just saw the master mix compressor(s).
  • The guitars got a little bit of software 1176's. 
  • We fired up Eric's Lexicon 480 -- mostly because I wanted to fire it up. A tiny bit of snare and sometimes keyboards went and got a bit wet with some reverb. 
  • Eric has a great trick -- he rolls off two mixes simultaneously. One mix just has a SSL-clone compressor on it, the other mix has the SSL-clone and an analog PL2 peak limiter and a software multiband (Waves L3? maybe?) When we take the mix to mastering we just use the lesser-compressed mix. But for listening, of course, everyone likes the super-limited and compressed mix.
Here are the mixes with all the multitude of compressors. They aren't yet mastered, but honestly they sound pretty close to the way they will when mastered. 

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