Dark Moon Society - Mixing


 

I was pretty keen to get in and start mixing after our big one day session of tracking mostly because we had achieved such a nice sound with the guitars and I was interested to see how that would change my mixing process. I was interested to see how I would prioritise my mixing session considering I had only an hour to get it done, and I did take some different steps than I usually might. For starters, I usually start my mixing sessions by getting buses and groups set up for everything, whether that be for example reverb or for parallel compression for a drum bus. I actually started my session by setting levels and organising my vocal parts, which is unusual because I will usually start with drums, I just felt that out of everything the vocals needed most of my attention, not because they were particularly bad or anything, but because there were so many different vocal parts to work with.


Vocals

Our vocal session for this track was a bit unlike any vocal session I've ever worked with; usually I would set up what ever mic would work best and leave it at that, but during our session we had 5 mics set up. Two R84s at the back of the room in a stereo pair facing the performer, two Mojave101s overhead of the singer and our main mic, an NTK, where it should be. We also did a second take with a KMS105, so I had a lot of options to choose from. My main mic stayed the same in the mix because I just love the sound the NTK gave us, which is also the reason I didn't do a lot of processing on that track, just a bit of compression to keep the level steady and that was it. I actually used the second take KMS panned slightly to the left and one of the R84s panned to the right (you'd be surprised how much they captured from the back of the room), instead of just the R84s together, this offered a bit more of an interesting stereo sound. I used my other R84 track as a backing vocal for the chorus's with a fair amount of chorus effecting the signal. The two Mojaves I used as stereo reverb mics and turned them down so they sat nicely behind the lead vocal acting as a room sound. I then sent all of these tracks to a bus with a de-esser to clear up the hissy bits of the vocals for all tracks at once, then an EQ which just lightly drops some of the frequencies around 340hz and boosts around 2.25 by about 0.9db. Then a light compressor to tie all the vocal tracks together and a gate to cut out room noise when there's no singin' happening. This actually wasn't my intention but the fact that I have a gate on all my vocals means that even the reverb vocals are gated, which actually sounds really cool and worked nicely with what I was mixing. After this I added a light reverb to add some room back into the mix and the vocals are done!


Drums

I knew the guitars sounded great so I kind of reverted back into my usual routine and started mixing drums. In my reference track, Regular John - Queens of the Stone Age, the drums are quite a bit louder than everything else and I wanted to give them that same clarity in this mix. So I took my usual drum mixing steps like gating elements such as the kick and the snare, and even the toms and high hats just to clean them up and get rid of any unwanted noise from the other elements. I did basic sort of tidying up with the drums and levelled the kick and snare tracks depending on which gave me more high or low end. For example, the top snare was great for a punchy, snappy tone but the bottom snare was more of the top end, so I gated them and cut a bunch of the low end out of the snare bottom just so it could reinforce the snap of the over all snare sound. With would usually pick which track (Kick In or Kick Out) I want to carry most of the low end and high end but for this track I combined the two to get a decent meaty kick sound.

You can see that these EQs are set to compliment each other by attenuating frequencies in the Kick Out EQ where they are boosted in the Kick In EQ, making it easier to combine the two.


As I always do with drums, I added reverb to the overheads as a room sound because most of my other elements were gated and lacked space, and then sent all drum elements to a bus where I added a bit of side chain compression to fatten them up and then made sure that bus level sat above the rest of my elements.


Guitars

The band was thankfully pretty specific with how they wanted their guitars to sound in terms of the frequency content. Issac and Alex have both created good tonality through their pedals for live performances so it was only really a matter of translating that tonality well through the mixing process, and only embellishing it a bit. The first thing I did with the guitar tracks, as I have done with just about any other element, is decide on levels for the different tracks. We had 3 mics on each guitar amp so I wanted to make sure they didn't all muddy up together, and I did this by panning each element a slightly different amount.


I also made sure to take the rhythm guitar (Vox) down in the solo section where the lead (Fender) was supposed to be more prominent.

This gave the mix a nice stereo image and prevented the guitars from becoming too muddled together. The SM7Bs were definitely the crispiest sounding mics from the tracking session so they're a lot louder than the rest in this mix, and in the case of the Fender Amp, panned to dead centre. It seems a bit unusual that the lead guitarist would want the most mid range but that's what he asked of the mix so I followed his request and to be honest, it sounds great with that focus on the mid range with no panning left or right. The other two mics, MD441U and Royer 121, gave us some great mid range tone so I kept them fairly loud in the mix. They are actually turned up just a bit more on the Vox Amp tracks but they are also unprocessed for the most part on the Vox. On the Fender tracks the mid range is boosted slightly on the MD441U and for the Royer I have high passed and low passed the signal so that only the mid range comes through. To be fair, the SM7B track for this guitar is pretty focused on the high end, but this is basically just to promote the fact that it's the lead.

With Alex's guitars I slightly moved the high end out of the SM7B track, again just to move the lead guitar into the foreground.

I then had each of these guitars running through a bus of their own where I applied some final tidying up EQ to the summed 3 mic signal, and then added a small amount of compression to keep the level even. After this I actually sent both of those buses to another bus which combined both guitar signals and raised the top end slightly with an EQ, and then added some reverb. There's also a send running off of the Both Guitars bus that adds a bit of extra distortion using a parallel technique alongside compression.

Routing for Guitar Buses

Processing for Guitar Buses

I think I could have taken care of all the EQing on just the guitar tracks rather than the buses afterwards, but I like the fact that I was able to sum the 3 guitar mics, EQ those signals combined and then do the same with both summed guitar tracks. If I had my time over with this track I probably would have done similar routing but I might have done all of my EQing on the buses or maybe even only on the guitars.

 

I'm definitely not unhappy with this outcome, I think I've worked through a nice mix with the time that I had. There isn't too much I would change about my mix except for maybe some different processing techniques, but there are definitely things I wish we had done in the tracking stage to improve the quality of the tracks I had to mix. Overall, I think I got the right kind of tonality on the vocals and stand out drum sound to fit my reference track, which were the things I was really trying to get right in terms of my reference. The guitars had great tonality already so it was just a matter of translating that through the mix with a couple of minor embellishments to polish them up. Again, very happy with the mix.