In this post, I will present the making of the EP called 5.5 (5Gongs.5Genres) part of the PDMP Project (Planning and Delivering a Music Product) aka FMP (Final Major Project). The EP contains, as the title sais, 5 songs. Each song a different genre. This will be released on 02.06.2015 on Soundcloud and also in hard copy format (small amount). In order to make this project a total success, I’ve collaborated with several local artists, the college bands and also with my colleague and friend Leon Winter as co-producer for a couple of songs included on this EP. The EP also has a cover. The front cover will be used on Soundcloud and on the hard copy. The back cover was made just for the hard copy version.
Let’s start with the first song.
The first song is a collaboration between the college band The Motion and Carla a local singer. The chosen song is Superstition by Stevie Wonder. This song has a co-producer, Leon Winter. He helped me to record the song and in post-production, to add a section of MIDI trumpets on several parts of the song.
Recording Session: Carla & The Motion – Superstition
For this song to be complete, we’ve had two sessions. One for the band recording and the second one for the vocal.
Session 1: For the drums, we used the Shure PG drum kit pack, the Sontronics STC-1 pair for overheads and Shure SM58 for snare. For the kick, we used the Shure PG52, because it has a good low-end/mid-high frequency response which makes the kick have a nice low sound and at the same time is bright and punchy which is a perfect sound for funk music. To eliminate the proximity effect and achieve the brighter sound, the microphone was placed outside of the kick, on the side, at approx. 15cm away. On the day we recorded, due to the unavailability of the legendary Shure SM57, we’ve decided to “transform” the SM58 into an SM57 to be used for the snare. Because both microphones have the same capsule, same input sensitivity, similar frequency responses with small differences, the SM57 has the low-end more drastically cut (this is because of its ability to eliminate the proximity effect) and more hi-end boost than SM58, we found the SM58 the perfect microphone to replace SM57. In order to bring the SM58 closer to the SM57 sound, we decided to unscrew the pop shield ball. The pop shield of the SM58 creates that frequency difference between the two microphones. This means, that the SM58 without the pop shield, looks and sounds the same as the SM57. It was placed next to the snare rim facing the middle of it. This position will give a brighter sound of the snare. For the Hi-Hats and Hi-Tom we used the Shure PG56 because its frequency response allows it to be used for both, toms and hi-hats. For the Hi-Tom the microphone was placed closer by approx. 3 cm (no proximity effect caused), in this way we will get more low-end. For HI-Hats it was placed at approx. 6 cm, on top to achieve a brighter sound. To achieve bright, clear and wide sound of the overall kit, including cymbals, hi-hat and crushes, we used a pair of pencil condenser microphones, X-Y (coincident) stereo set-up. The Sontronics STC-1 are the best microphones to do the job because they have a very good hi-end frequency response and also have an almost flat response for the low and mid frequencies. This is amazing because it gives a nice sound to the overall kit especially the high-end frequencies of it. It was placed in the middle of the kit, equal distance from the snare, the left (right side in the mix/input) facing the hi-hats and the right (left side in the mix/input) facing the cymbals. In the photos you can see that the floor tom is also miked up. We decide to eliminate it, because the drummer has not used the floor tom for the song. About the guitar and bass recording, not very much to say. Both were recorded via a D.I. box, at the same time with the drums, positioned in the control room and used also as a guide for the drummer. More about guitar and bass in the mixing part of the song.
The second session was set to take place at a later date after the band was recorded. This will give the singer time to rehearse the song and make the session run quicker to reduce the studio hire costs.
The vocals were recorded on the 12 of May. The session started at 5:30pm and ended two hours later at 7:30pm.
The set-up was very simple, the backing track was fed into the headphones AUX so the singer will be able to hear it, same with the microphone so will be able to hear itself.
The microphone used was the Road NT2. The frequency response of it fits perfectly with the funk type of music, boosting the HIGhs will give a bright and clear sound to the vocal.
Before I properly started mixing the song, I’ve decided to add a midi section of trumpets in order to give it more life. Leon Winter added on the last two choruses in harmony with the song a trumpet section.
Another edit from the actual recording done in “the lab”, is that I shorted the song length. After the last chorus, the song had approx. 2 minutes of instrumental left with no dynamics, no place to add more vocals and I eliminated the risk of becoming boring and too long.
After all the editing, I’ve started to do the actual mix.
Kick – On the kick track I’ve added an EQ where I cut the 152 Hz because there was a resonant frequency. In order to make the kick more punchy and to give it more “life”, I’ve boosted the 2.6kHz by 4dB with a 0.9 Q wide and the low end up to 100 Hz by 1.3 dB. To eliminate the hi-hats bleeding, I’ve added a LPF from 8.9kHz.
Snare – For the snare I have added a very light EQ. First, I’ve added a HPF up to 80 Hz, this will get rid of all the unwanted low end frequencies. Because I wanted the snare to sound bright and clear, I’ve boosted around the 425 Hz by 2.3dB to add more power and presence, around 6kHz by 1.9dB. To eliminate the bleeding as much as possible without dumbing the sound, I’ve added a LPF from 12kHz.
Drums BUS – For drums as a general processing I’ve used a very light compression, small ratio, high knee, slow attack, fast release with a -17 thresh. All these settings will give an even level without affecting the hi-hats/cymbals sound. Also an EQ was required in order to make the drum kit brighter. I’ve cut a resonant frequency at 231 Hz, 1 kHz by 2dB and I’ve boosted around 5 kHZ with a wide Q by 2.3dB. Because the hi-hats were too predominant over 16kHz, I’ve added a LPF. All this settings made the low-end frequencies of the kit to be less present in the mix. In order to fix it, all the frequencies under 100Hz were boosted by 2dB. To give more space to the drum kit, a small reverb with 322 ms decay and 12% presence in the mix was added.
The bass was D.I.-ed. My first thought was to re-amp it in the box. But, my final decision was to leave it natural and add just a very light compressor and an EQ. This set-up suits very well the funk style of the song.
The compression added on this bass is very, very light. I’ve used a high knee (16.7dB); because the bass is playing relatively slow, I’ve chosen to use a slow attack and a slow release. This will keep the bass picks at an even level and at the same time, it is not staying in a continuous compression.
The EQ has a LPF from 4.1kHz, because I had too much low-end coming from the bass; the freq. under 100 Hz was cut by 2.3dB. Also to give it a more crunchy and “funky” sound I’ve boosted it with a wide Q the 1 kHz by 2.3dB.
In order to make the guitar sound wider, I’ve duplicated the track, I shifted it slightly out of sync with the first track (this will give a natural sound of a double recorded track) and I 100% panned them left and right.
Same as with the bass and for the same reasons, I’ve decided to not re-amp it, just use it as it is.
First, I’ve added a compressor, again a light one, just enough to keep the guitar at an even level, without destroying the dynamics of it.
An EQ, where I’ve cut around 350 Hz by 3dB, boost around 1.4 KHz and 4.25 kHz with 1.1dB/3.2dB. All these settings give more presence in the mix, and make it brighter.
Because it is funk, the guitar requires reverb. I’ve added a church medium reverb, with a 1.7 sec decay, 1ms pre-delay and a 30% presence in the mix.
Most of the engineers said that if an instrument is MIDI any other EQ-ing is not required . In my situation I found necessary to use an EQ and a light compression in order to give more life to the trumpets.
First, I’ve added the EQ, with one adjustment. I’ve boosted around 350 Hz with a large Q by 8dB. This will give more presence and make them sound clearer because the sweet points of a trumpet are between 350 Hz and 1.5 kHz.
And again, a light compression, enough to keep them at an even level, without destroying the dynamics.
For the vocal, I’ve used a compressor, EQ and De-Esser.
The compressor on the vocal was used almost exactly as the one on the bass. high knee, small ratio, slow attack, fast release, with a -26 thresh with no gain boosting.
I’ve used the EQ it for small correction in order to make the vocal brighter. I’ve cut around 420 Hz by 2dB, 1.64 kHz by 2dB and added a HPF up to 100 Hz because, for the vocal, the frequencies under 100 Hz are unnecessarily and also eliminate any unwanted sounds that can occur while recording like “the drum kit next door”, boots sound or just simple vibrations into the microphone stand.
De-Esser. Was set to reduce the frequencies over 10 kHz, with a -36 dB range.
The dry vocal track was sent to a reverb and delay bus in order to give more space and make the vocal “alive” in the mix.
I’ve used a very small delay with a 578 ms sync, 5% feedback, 14% in the mix on the plug-in and -28dB level on the BUS.
The reverb has 57% room size, no pre-delay, 2.5 s reverb time, a long tail, with a 40% mix level on the plug-in and -5.2dB on the BUS.
This will give a bright and wide presence of the vocal in the mix. Just enough to have that funk sound.
The final mix was bounced at 24bit/44.1kHz sample rate, with the RMS level is at -22dBFS/-20dBFS and the peak level at -6dBFS giving enough headroom for the mastering process. To be able to achieve these levels, instead for bringing the level up to all the tracks, I’ve just boosted the master fader by 3dBFS.
NOTE: The track labelled floor tom in the session, is actually the Hi-Hat track, wrong labelled 🙂
The second song of the EP is Skyfall (Reggae Version) performed by Kaia & The Motion.
This song was recorded more than a year ago. Is a 100% college students project. As a recording session, I remember perfectly the set-up of the session, thanks to the input list and schedules made at that time.
Unfortunately, no pictures were taken at that session.
The song has drums, bass, guitar and vocal.
The drums were recorded using the AKG drum set. On the Hi-Hats I used the Shure SM57 BETA. Also for the second snare, I used the Shure SM57. The overheads were placed as a spaced pair, both mics facing the snare.
The bass amp was recorded using the Audix D6 and the guitar, using a Shure SM57.
For the vocal, I used the Avantone CK6.
The drums were placed in the middle of the Studio1 performance room, the bass and the guitar amps were placed into the drum booth and the vocal was placed into the vocal booth located in the control room.
This set-up allowed us to record them all together and eliminate the bleeding between the instruments at the lowest level possible.
Mixing: Kaia & The Motion – Skyfall (Reggae Version)
For these song in the mixing process I found a single problem, but very important one. In some parts, the guitar is not properly synced and is out of time. I fixed it using quantisation in most of the parts without distorting the sound, but some of them are still slightly out of time.
The end of the song, the drums fade out, as one of the cymbals was dropped on the floor in the recording session and the sound of it is not very pleasant. I found it more interesting if I only fade out the drums.
Let me tell you about this mix in more details.
Kick – The kick didn’t require any massive EQing. The only thing I’ve done was to eliminate the resonant frequencies: 78 Hz and 1.2kHz. I then added an LPF from 6.9kHz in order to reduce the bleeding.
Snare – Here I had two snares. One that played throughout the song and the second one played only at the beginning of the song.
Snare No 1 has an EQ, compressor and a gate. The EQing on it is pretty aggressive but, was needed because the sound of it was dumbed full of low-end and no “life”. In order to fix it, I’ve cut around 248 Hz by 2.6dB, 1 kHz by 3.6dB, boosted around 2.9 kHz by 2.1dB. Also a LPF was added from 7.71 kHz (hi-hat bleeding) and a HPF up to 70 Hz. These make the sound more bright and spacious.
A light compression with a fast attack, fast release with a small ratio was added in order to make the level more even in the mix.
The purpose of the gate is to eliminate ALL the bleeding while the snare is not hit because the hi-hat bleed in the snare mic was too much. So, the gate have a -15dB thresh, with a fast attack, and a small release in order to let through the tails of it.
Snare No.2, has just an EQ, again an aggressive one because I had the same problem with it like first one.
To be fixed, I’ve cut around 208 Hz by 3.4dB, 1 kHz by -5.4dB, boosted around the 2.17 kHz by 3.6dB and add an LPF from 7.7 kHz and an HPF up to 70 Hz. The frequencies are similar to the main snare and give the same effect. Bright and spacious.
Floor Tom & Hi Tom – I used only an EQ for both in order to eliminate the resonant frequencies. For the floor tom was 155 Hz and for the hi tom 163 Hz.
Drums BUS – As a general edit I used a compressor, EQ and because is a reggae song and is specified with this genre, a reverb was added.
The compressor was set with a fast attack, fast release, small ratio in order to not distort the sound of the cymbals/hi-hats.
With the EQ I’ve made small corrections. Again for adjusting the snare sound another 2.2dB was cut at 200 Hz, to give more life to the hi-hats and cymbals I’ve boosted the 2 kHz by 2dB. Also to make the hi frequencies of the kit less predominant I’ve added a LPF from 12 kHz and a very very slight boost but, makes the difference for the low end by 0.8dB.
I’ve hard compressed the parallel compression and because I needed more low end in parallel compression an EQ with LPF from 2 kHz was added.
When both tracks were put together, the drums get more power and presence in the mix.
The bass has a very small amount of editing done because the recording was a good one.
I’ve added a light compression, fast attack, slow release, small ratio and a high knee.
Again to reduce the bleeding I’ve added an EQ with an LPF from 8 kHz and in order to reduce the brightest of it and make it darker sounding (more low-end) I’ve cut around 800 Hz by 2.7dB.
The guitar was recorded with a reverb on it. A very good one. The single problem with it is that is mono. In order to fix it, after I’ve quantized the guitar track where was possible, I duplicated it and shifted it slightly so it will sound like a double take and I paned them. This makes the guitar and the reverb to sound stereo.
The compression has a slow attack, slow release and a small ratio. Due to the guitar having a slow attack and a slow release.
To make it brighter, I’ve added an HPF up to 70 Hz, cut around 320 Hz by 2dB and boosted the sweet point of a guitar, around 5 kHz by 3.8dB.
The vocal is spread on three tracks. The main vocal track where I’ve added a compressor, very light, fast attack, slow release, high knee and small ratio. Just enough to replicate an optical compressor which is very expensive but very good for vocals/bass because even if its optical it has a slow reaction.
EQ for corrections in order to make the vocal brighter. HPF up to 100 Hz, cut around 350 Hz by 1.7dB, 1.2 kHz by 1.7dB and boost from 5 kHz by 1.3dB.
Because reggae style song is known for the reverberation excess, I’ve added a large reverb with a 1.4 sec decay and 60% presence in the mix on the plug-in and -10dB on the bus.
The delay has a 793 ms decay, 50% feedback, 22% in the mix on the plug in and -17.8dB on the bus. The delay bus is automated so will be on only in some parts of the song.
Because the reverb amplifies the esses, I’ve decided to continue the routing to another bus, where are centred the vocal track and the effect busses. on this bus, I’ve added a De-Esser from 8 kHz with a -17dB range.
The final mix was bounced at 16bit/44.1kHz sample rate and like the first song, the RMS level is at -22dBFS/-20dBFS and the peak level at -6dBFS giving enough headroom for the mastering process.
The third song is an unplugged version of All I Want (by Kodaline) performed by Evie & Ellie.
The actual recording has a guitar and vocals. I felt it sounded empty and at the same time the song “asked” for a piano or a violin… something to fill it up a little bit. I’ve decided to add some of the tech “magic dust”. Helped by Leon Winter`s piano skills, we added a piano line, strings and some trumpets in order to make the song more interesting. Also in some parts and where was possible some of the Melodyne “magic” was used on the vocal and in one part on the guitar track. More about this in the mixing part of this song.
Back to the recording session, we used three microphones for the guitar.
The two AKG C1000S in a XY stereo position pointing the guitar threat and the Shure PG12 pointing the sound hole. This set-up gives us a powerful and reach sound of the guitar thanks to the Shure PG12 frequency response and of the course his position. We have also a bright and wide sound of it thanks to the two AKG`s C1000S placed on the threat using the XY stereo technique.
For the vocals, we used the Rode NT-2 because the frequency response of it fits both singers vocal timbre and frequency range.
Mixing: Evie & Ellie – All I Want
For the guitars, I’ve added a light compression, EQ where I’ve cut around 250 Hz and boosted around 3.8 kHz in order to make it more brighter. A small reverb with 655 ms decay and 40% in the mix in order to make it have a more spacious and wider sound.
The stereo microphones were paned 45% L 45% R to make it have a more realistic stereo instead of a too wide sound.
Some resonant strings can be heard which I could not cut out without affecting the overall sound of the guitar. Because of that I’ve decided to leave it as is. It gives a more natural unplugged sound.
Because in one part, the guitar was slightly out of tune, I’ve inserted Melodyne and set it back in tune.
Piano, strings & trumpets:
Here comes the “tech magic”. As I said before, to make the song more interesting and make the instrumental of it more filled up, helped by Leon Winter piano skills, we’ve added MIDI piano, string and trumpets.
The piano I left it MIDI using the Eighty-Eight Piano Plug-in. No extra EQing or processing was required because the samples sound just right for what I wanted.
The strings have a single track on the first verse and chorus. When the instrumental part starts, using the same MIDI file, another strings together with trumpets are starting to play but just the cords in order to sustain the main strings section and the piano. All together forming a small ensemble.
All the tracks (piano, strings, trumpets) are stereo.
For the ensemble group, to make it brighter and to give it more presence, I’ve boosted it with a wide Q the 220 Hz by 4.4dB and 3.3 kHz by 1.7dB.
Because the vocals were out of tune most of the time, I’ve tuned them (where possible without distorting the sound) using Melodyne. Also, some quantisation was made in several parts of the song.
Evie`s Vocal – Light compression, EQ with a cut around 370 Hz by 4dB and boost from 3.4 kHz by 2.2dB and an HPF up to 63 Hz in order to make it more bright. Also De-Esser from 6.4 kHz with a -26dB range in order to attenuate the ‘s’.
Ellie`s Vocal – Light compression, EQ with a cut around 330 Hz by 2.5dB and 2 kHz by 1.6dB and HPF up to 100 Hz because had too many hi frequencies and to give it more presence in the mix. Also a De-Esser from 6.8 kHz with a -26dB range to attenuate the esses.
Same like the other two songs, the final mix was bounced at 16bit/44.1kHz sample rate, RMS level is at -20dBFS/-15dBFS and the peak level at -6dBFS giving enough headroom for the mastering process.
The fourth song of the EP is called Hangman and is performed by the local band JawBone.
The song was recorded in a live session situation. All the purpose of it was to film also a promotional video while recording, so will end up as a live studio session.
Together with Charlie Draper, who had the role of the recording engineer, we used this session opportunity to make some experiments. That’s why I can say that this project it is an experimental one.
We’ve recorded the vocal and the drums in the same room managing to have a very small amount of drums bleeding into the vocalist microphone, thanks to the position of the mic and of course the microphone used.
In the drum booth we placed the bass and guitar amps. Well… here comes the interesting part. The band, have two members. One drummer and one guitarist. Because the song need also a bass line, the guitarist had a AB-Y splitting pedal which allows him to have the low end of the guitar sent to the bass amp and the mid hi’s sent to the the guitar amp. Using the pedal switches he balanced the low frequencies between the bass and guitar amps. Works like a crossover but for guitars.
Recording Session: JawBone – Hangman
For the drums, we’ve decided to use two microphones for the kick to have a more powerful kick and in the same time two options in the mixing process if was the case of using only one microphone.
For the inside of the kick, we used the AKG D112 due to his good low-end frequency response. For the out of the kick, we used the Audix D6 because we needed a brighter sound of the kick and this microphone has a good freq response at low end and also mid/hi-end which is good for a brighter kick.
For the snare was used the Shure SM57 due to his high SPL and also the frequency response which eliminates the proximity effect thanks to the low-end cut.
For the floor and hi tom we used the Audio Technica PRO 25 because it has freq response with the low-end slightly boosted, mid`s almost flat and again a boost at hi freq which is suitable for a tom sound (hi or floor). To eliminate any proximity effect risks, the microphones were placed at approx. 10cm away giving also a brighter and crispier sound.
For the overheads we used just one, in the middle of the kit, facing the snare in order to have a better capture of the cymbals because none of them (including hi-hats) was mic’d up.
To give a more “studio live session” sound, we’ve placed two room microphones (stereo purpose) positioned on the sides of the drum kit, same distance from the snare and facing it. In this way we have captured the room sound, also the whole kit sound in stereo and eliminate any delays between the two mics due to the equal distance from the snare. The microphone used, was the Avantone CK6 cardioid. It has a very nice frequency response at high`s and what is the best thing in my opinion, is the cut around 350 Hz. 350 Hz are a problem for the snares and in some cases for the kick making them sounds boomed and with no brightness.
The bass and guitar amps were placed into the drum booth in order to be isolated by the drums and vice versa. The bass have a Audix D6 on axis because it captures very well the low-end and the hi’s for more brightness. The guitars was recorded with a XY stereo technique on axis using the two AKG C1000S condenser microphones for brighter and wider sound.
The vocal was recorded with a Sontronics STC 80 because is cardioid and placed opposite the drums but not facing them, will capture the vocal at a predominant level and reduce significantly the drums bleeding and also gives a more live session type of sound.
Mixing: JawBone – Hangman
Kick IN and OUT – I’ve used EQ for both same reasons different frequencies: eliminate the resonant frequencies, boost the low-end and add an LPF to eliminate us much as possible the kit bleeding.
For the inside kick, was cut the 105 Hz, 1.34 kHz both resonant. LPF from 4.3 kHz and boosted up to 50 Hz by 4dB in order to make it more punchy and present.
For the outside kick, was cut the 368 Hz resonant freq., LPF from 3.6 kHz and boosted up to 328 Hz by 5dB. This makes it punchy and at the same time brighter thanks to the mic position.
Combined, I ended up with a punchy and bright kick.
Snare – Again just an EQ for corrections. I’ve added an HPF up to 80 Hz, cut the 218 Hz resonant frequency, boost around 2.3 kHz with a wide Q by 4.8dB and added a small HPF from 17.7 kHz in order to eliminate the hi-hat bleeding. This will make the snare to sound bright and clear.
HI & Floor Tom – I’ve used an EQ, same parameters for both HI and Floor tom. First, I’ve cut the 177 Hz resonant frequency and added a LPF from 4.4 kHz to ameliorate the bleeding. I’ve reduced around 1 kHz by 1.6dB and boost by 2.8dB up to 100 Hz. This corrections are making the tom’s to be more clear and present in the mix.
Room – The room mic’s was the best idea for this recording. Was panned 75%L/75%R. I didn’t pan them totally because of the distance between the two mic’s, would create a too wide and too “spread” drum kit. The hi-hat`s can be heard more on the right side, left ride is on the left side, all this creates the “I’m there” feeling. It makes it sound natural. The same “panning” is created by our ears when we listen to a real live acoustic drum kit.
I’ve done just some small corrections using an EQ. I’ve boosted the low-end up to 100 Hz by 4dB, cut around 196 Hz by 1.9dB, 886 Hz by 2.7dB and boost 3.42 kHz by 1.9dB. The same EQ-ing was done for the right room mic but with small differences. The boosting was done at 2.75 kHz by 1.7dB and by 1.5dB from 5.84 kHz.
All these corrections make them sound clearer, spacious, powerful and bring more of the performance room sound (which is a very nice one) into the mix.
Drums BUS – As general settings, I used a compressor to make the drums sit much better in the mix and a general EQ for corrections.
The compressor has a fast attack, fast release, small ratio, -15dB thresh. In this way, the dynamics of the drums are even and the cymbals and hi-hats sound is not distorted by the compression.
The EQ have a 3.5dB cut at 530 Hz with a 3.3 Q to reduce an “agglomeration” of mi-low frequencies created by the kick (both mic’s) and the snare. A small 1.1dB cut up to 66 Hz and another 1.3dB at 2.6 kHz. I’ve also boosted by 1.5dB from 6.9 kHz to bring more of the cymbals and hi-hats in to the mix.
Bass – The bass amp has a compressor with a fast attack, fast release, small ratio, high knee and a thresh at -10db. Because is not a proper bass, it has very inconstant dynamics (more than a proper bass). This compression set up, is not distorting the sound and bring the dynamics at an even level but not the perfect one.
I’ve used the EQ for small corrections. I’ve added a LPF from 4.7 kHz, cut around 200 Hz with a wide Q by 2dB and boost by 1.7dB the 820 Hz. This will give a more “crunchy” sound to it and also is not having too many low frequencies to agglomerate the song.
Guitars – Very small corrections were done and some reverb was added. The EQ has an LPF up to 120 Hz in order to eliminate the bass amp bleeding. To make the guitars brighter and cleaner, I’ve cut at 436 Hz with a wide Q by 3.4dB and boosted with a very wide Q at 4.5 kHz by 1.7dB.
The compression is very light. Slow attack, slow release, large knee, small ratio. and a -20dB thresh. All this just to make the dynamics a little more even without distorting the sound.
To make them more spacious and wide, I’ve panned them by 55%L/55%R and I’ve added a reverb with a 2.6 sec decay, 9ms pre-delay and a 33% level in the mix.
Vocals – The vocal has two tracks. One recorded in the first take and the second one overdubbed while the video clip was filmed. The second vocal was used as a doubled vocal in the last part of the choruses.
I’ve used the same plug-ins and settings for both tracks except the EQ.
Main and doubled vocal have the following edit`s in common:
Gate: I’ve added a gate to ameliorate the bleeding on the silence parts. The thresh was set at -43dB
Compression: the compressor have a very,very fast attack (10 micro sec) and a slow release (132 ms), small ratio high knee and a -26 thresh. This keeps the vocal dynamics even without affecting the quality.
EQ: First, us I usually do with vocals, I’ve added a LPF up to 60 HZ. I’ve cut the 470 Hz resonant frequency (I think was a bleed from the kick) and boosted around 249 Hz by 2.4dB and 4.8 kHz by 1.9dB. And a LPF added from 18 kHz.For the doubled vocal, the only difference is that I’ve boosted around 3.2 kHz by 3.2dB and cut by 1 dB around 4.9 kHz. The LPF added from 15 kHz. This corrections makes the vocal brighter and clear. The LPF was added to reduce the cymbals and hi-hats bleeding.
De-Esser – was used to ameliorate the esses. From 4.5 kHz with a -40 thresh.
Vocal BUS – The vocal bus was used for Melodyne. I used it to tune the vocal where was necessary and where was possible. In some parts, even if the vocal was out of tune I didn’t use it because the vocal gets too distorted. This is not because of the plugin. Is because I don’t have the necessary experience to use Melodyne and not distort the sound when trying to fix a very bad out of tune part.
Vocal Effects BUSSES – The vocals ere sent to the effects busses. One for reverb and one for delay.
The delay has a 16th synced delay with no feedback, 30% in the mix and -3 on the bus. This will create a vintage effect very popular in the 80`s rock songs (they used also some feedback but I prefer it without).
The reverb it’s a small 1.1 sec decay with a 65% in the mix and -6 on the bus. Set also with the thought of the 80`s vocal sound. In the 80`s they used more reverb but, I prefer to be less because it`s an alternative song and more reverb doesn’t have a place in this kind of songs.
Same like the other songs, the final mix was bounced at 16bit/44.1kHz sample rate, RMS level is at -20 dBFS/-15 dBFS and the peak level at -6dBFS giving enough headroom for the mastering process.
The last song of the EP is Use Somebody performed by the local singer Carla.
For this project we recorded the vocals only as the backing track was purchased.
Recording session: Carla – Use Somebody
Not very much to say about the recording session. Was a common type of session for a commercial recording studio where the solo artists come in the studio to record over a stereo already mixed/mastered backing track.
I’ve used the Avantone CK6 because the frequency response of it is suitable with the singer. More exactly, the voice of the singer has too many frequencies around 350 Hz. Avantone CK6 frequency response, have a slight cut around 350 Hz and boosts the hi-end which makes it suitable for the vocal I’ve recorded and make my mixing stage easier.
The microphone was placed in the middle of the live room, in front of it at approx. 5 cm was placed the pop shield and the singer was placed another 5 cm away from the pop shield (10 cm from the microphone). This position will eliminate the risk of proximity effect (the dumped sound) and the exaggerated level of pops.
The routing was done us follow:
- CH1&2 – was sent from ProTools the backing track and sent again on AUX1 and then into the singer headphones via the Behringer headphones distribution amplifier.
- CH 3 – was the microphone, phantom powered sent from the desk to the DAW
- CH 6 – was sent from PT the lead vocal and via AUX2 into the singer headphones using the Behringer headphones distribution amplifier.
- CH 7 – was sent from PT the backing 1 (Oooo) subgroup and via AUX2 into the singer headphones using the Behringer headphones distribution amplifier.
- Ch 8 – was sent from PT the backing 2 (Aaaa) and via AUX2 into the singer headphones using the Behringer headphones distribution amplifier.
- Ch 9 – was sent from PT the interval vocals subgroup and via AUX2 into the singer headphones using the Behringer headphones distribution amplifier.
The purpose of CH`s 6,7,8 and 9 was to allow the singer to listen back the takes (for decisions if stay like that or record again) and at the same time, compared with the DAW mixing console, it`s easier to control the levels, mute/solo the tracks directly on the desk and can listen back what was recorded roughly mixed and make an idea of how would sound, without affecting the DAW levels.
Here are the single two pictures taken on the session:
Mixing: Carla – Use Somebody
Lead vocal – First, I’ve added a light compression with a fast attack and slow release (the way she sang), high knee, small ratio. It’s compressed enough to keep the dynamics in control and at the same time not over compressed to distort the sound of it.
The EQ has an HPF up to 100 Hz and a cut around 350 Hz by 2.9dB, boost around 2.4 kHz by 1.7dB and around 6.5 kHz by 1.8dB. This will make the vocal brighter.
I’ve added a small hall reverb with a 1.5 sec decay and a 33% presence in the mix. Just enough to make the vocal sound wider.
Because the reverb amplifies the esses I’ve added a De-Esser from 6.9 kHz with a -28dB range.
At the end, because was some bleeding from the headphones, I’ve inserted a gate which eliminates the bleeding on the silent parts (when she sing, the voice cover the bleeding).
Backing 1 (Oooo) – For this, I’ve used almost the same settings I’ve done for the lead vocal with slight differences.
Compressor with a slow attack and slow release, small ratio, high knee.
The EQ has almost the same parameters as the lead vocal, except the hi-end where I’ve boosted from 6.3 kHz by 2 dB to make them brighter.
These bakings was recorded three times in order to create a chorus effect. To make them more spacious, bigger and wider I’ve added more reverb than usual (like the original song “Kings of Leon – Use Somebody”). Medium hall, with a 4.2 decay, 16 ms pre-delay and a 67% presence in the mix.
Baking 2 (Aaaa) – The compressor and the EQ have the same setting as the lead vocal with slight changes for the same reason, to make it brighter.
The reverb is a small hall with a 6.3 sec decay and a 45% presence in the mix.
NOTE: In the screenshot, it’s also a De-Esser for no reason (no point to add a De-Esser on an “aaa” type of singing)
Baking 3 (Interval) – The compressor and the EQ have the same setting as the lead vocal with slight changes for the same reason, to make it brighter.
Reverb has a small hall with a1.2 sec decay and 40% presence in the mix.
De-Esser to ameliorate the esses from 8.5 kHz with a -22dB range.
Same like the other songs, the final mix was bounced at 16bit/44.1kHz sample rate, RMS level is at -20 dBFS/-15 dBFS and the peak level at -6dBFS giving enough headroom for the mastering process.
NOTE: For all the songs vocal tracks, in order to make the level automation easier and less time consuming, I’ve used Vocal Rider to auto-create an average automated level, not a perfect one, but good enough for a start and an easier automation edit.
Also as a general edit, for all the songs, vocal or instruments, I’ve cut the silence parts, eliminate the pops and any other impurities. Also the recording had a playlist containing multiple takes of the same parts and in the mixing process I’ve chosen the best parts from each playlist in order to end up with a good and usable take. Known also as comping.
The MIDI tracks (except the “All I Want” piano) was recorder audio in the box (stereo or mono, depends on the plug-in used) in order to save the computer memory. Too many instrument plug-ins will drain the computer memory and the DAW (ProTools) will crash or will run slow enable me to carry on with the mix.
The mastering part of the EP had the role to bring all the songs at the same level, approx. same sound. I don`t have the experience and the equipments to make a professional mastering where even if the songs are different genres will have the same sound.
The first thing done before I start to master them was to decide the order.
The songs are 5 different genres, sound completely different and were recorded and mixed in different ways which make my work more difficult, but I’ve managed to bring them at the same level with very slight differences in sound.
Here is the order:
01 Carla & The Motion – Superstition (Funk)
02 Kaia & The Motion – Skyfall (Reggae)
03 Evie & Ellie – All I Want (Unplugged)
04 JawBone – Hangman (Alternative)
05 Carla – Use Somebody (Pop-Rock)
The songs 01 is the first because I wanted to start with force and with a catchy song. Is followed by the reggae song because the transition between a funk and a reggae song is smooth and is not creating a big changing in tempo and feeling.
03 is the unplugged song, a big jump from reggae but taking in account that the reggae song have a pretty slow tempo it makes the transition more agreeable.
04 bring the EP back to life with a rhythmic song, is “waking up” the listener and lyrics wise complete the previous song.
05 comes with an epic and in force end of the EP and also the transition from the previous alternative song is made smooth and with no problems.
I see the order also like a good show scenario. A big and captivating start with the first two songs, the middle (03 and 04) not very exciting and finish with a powerful good sounding song (05) making the listener regret that is done (even if he gets bored in the middle).
I started by inserting the Maxim, Phase Scope and Inspector plug-ins on the master fader. Maxim is the limiter who brings levels of the songs up without letting them to go over the -0.1dBFS ceiling (CD standard peak level). Should be 0dBFS but just for making sure that will have no chances for peaking, was set to -0.1dBFS. Nobody can realise the difference between 0dB and -0.1dB.
I will tell you what I’ve done for each song.
01 Superstition – for this song I have not too much. Because pre-mastered have a good amount of compression, the mixing is good was no point to over compress and destroy it. What I’ve done was to send it straight to the master fader and bring the level up using Maxim to an average RMS at -15dBFS/-9dBFS with a -0.1 peak. Because I wanted to add a little bit more high frequencies for making louder the hi-hats and the cymbals I’ve inserted an EQ and boost by 1.5dB the hi`s from 4.5 kHz.
02 Skyfall – I’ve done the same edits like the song 01, with modification in the eq parameter and because I used one maxim plug-in on the master fader, I’ve adjusted the Skyfall level from the track fader (-1 dB) in order to have the same RMS at -15dBFS/-9dBFS with a -0.1 peak like Skyfall. This will make the level equal.
The EQ was used to bring down the low-end and the hi-end because became to predominant after the level gets up. More exactly, the bass and the hi-hats/cymbals.
03 All I want – for this I get more in-depth with the mastering techniques. Because the vocals was too loud compared with the previous songs vocal level and because the song wasn’t very present and powerful (unplugged) I’ve used the Mid/Side Matrix* to bring the vocals a little bit down, and a parallel light and heavy compression**. And of course the EQ for corrections.
Here is the routing. Was sent to the M/S Matrix* busses, from there was sent to the light and heavy compression** ending on the master fader where Maxim brings the level up to RMS at -15dBFS/-9dBFS with a -0.1 peak. Also the song track fader was dragged down to -4.9dBFS in order to have the same level of the previous songs.
EQ – Because the song had too many hi frequencies, I’ve boosted the low-end and cut the low-mids and hi-end. All very slight -1.8dB for lows and -1.3dB for low-mids and hi-end.
M/S Matrix* – On the mid matrix channel I’ve had the vocals and on the side matrix was the backing track (the stereo part of it) the vocals us you’ve seen in the mixing parts have not much stereo going on which makes it more easy to bring them down in the mastering process. I bring them down by 7.4dBFS on mid and -4.9 on the side. The L and R are down to -6dBFS.
Light and Heavy parallel compression** – The heavy compression brings more power to the song and was set to a -3.7dBFS level. The light compression brings the level up and makes the song more even in dynamics. This had a +6.8dBFS level.
04 Hangman – This song has an EQ on the track and was sent to a light and heavy parallel compression** and next on the master fader for Maxim to bring up the level again, with an RMS at -15dBFS/-9dBFS with a -0.1 peak. In order to achieve this level, the track fader was set to -2.5dBFS.
EQ – Because in the mix was to many low-end added, the song gets too agglomerate and creates a resonant frequencies between 80 Hz and 110 Hz but most predominant at 102 Hz. To fix it, I’ve cut the 102 Hz with a Q wider enough to cut a little bit around it. Also I’ve cut around 320 Hz for vocal and snare correction and around 4.7 kHz correction for the guitar.
Light and Heavy parallel compression**- The parallel compression was added for the same reason I’ve add it in the previous song. The heavy compression brings more power to the song and was set to a -19.5dBFS level. The light compression brings the level up and makes the song more even in dynamics. This had a 0dBFS level.
05 Use Somebody – This song “suffered” the same treatment like the songs 01 and 02 for the same reasons, same level. RMS at -15dBFS/-9dBFS with a -0.1 peak. The track fader was set to -4dBFS.
EQ – Because the hi-end frequencies were too loud, I’ve cut the hi`s by 3dBFS from 3 kHz.
All the songs was measured and controlled using Inspector for RMS, Peak level check and frequencies analyzer. Phase Scope to check the stereo wines, phasing and most important mono compatibility by checking if one switched in mono, will get out of phase and cancel any instruments. As mono “switcher” I`ve used Stereo Width with the width set on 0 (mono) and I used the bypass button to activate or deactivate it.
Also I’ve cut the silence parts from the start and the end of the songs, because when will be recorded on CD the software will add 2sec between the songs. Making the songs to not have silence parts at the beginning and the end, will create an exactly 2sec pause between the tracks (added by CD recorder software). For a smoother end, on all the tracks I’ve added a slight fade out.
The Maxim has set to dither the songs at 16bit. This will eliminate any distortions caused by the conversion from 24 to 16 bits.
All the tracks were bounced stereo, was, at 16bit/44.1 kHz.
The songs will not be used for a commercial purpose but, for my experience, I’ve converted the WAV files in MP3 and I encrypt them with the artist’s names, songs names, year, EP name and the cover. This type of files is used for iTunes, Google Play or any other online music shop.
* Mid/Side Matrix – sometimes called sum/difference, is a technique where a stereo recording is changed from the usual left and right to mid and side. The ‘mid’ or ‘sum’ is the mono portion of the recording (everything the left and right signals have in common) and the side is the stereo portion (everything else).
Using mid/side, we can more easily zone in on different parts of the stereo recording for EQ, compression, change the vocals level, or even manipulate the stereo image itself.
To make it work, the stereo track must be sent on two mono AUX (mid and side), where the side track has the R part of the song and using Trim flip the polarity. After that, on another two mono AUX inputs (L and R) send the mid AUX on the left and the side AUX on the right and only on the right side flip back the polarity, to come back to the initial sound of the mix, modified as necessary using the mid (mono) and side (stereo) Auxes faders.
**Parallel Compression – used most of the time in the mastering process (sometimes in the mixing process) leave the loud transients intact while raising the level of low-level signals.
This is all about the making off 5Songs.5Genres EP.
I hope you will enjoy the EP.