It took me a long time to get to a point where I was at the least, mildly happy with my final mix. I originally only had piano and vocals from the studio but knew I wanted to add more elements to my track.
I started by adding synth using midi and the XPand!2 plug in and I played with the tremolo effect as I wanted a real bassy modulating sound throughout my piece. Thats when I also began playing around with my harmonies I recorded and I tried to create some samples by chopping up my harmonies.
I thought perhaps if I created some kind of unique rhythm with the samples, it could be some alternative drum rhythm. I ended up duplicating a lot of the harmonies/now samples tracks so I would be able to get them to do different things. For example, I used the pitch shifter to create some lower samples; one set of samples was the octave below the original pitch, and I created an even lower one, two octaves below the original pitch. I felt quite free when working with my samples. I didn’t treat them as strictly as I usually would with a vocal as I wanted them to be more subtle and acting as instruments forming the main body of the song rather than part of the main vocal. I used decay a lot more on the higher range samples to create some eery echoing sounds and although I did still apply some reverb and delay to the lower samples, I left them to be more dry so they could be distinguished in the mix from the kick drum and the bass synth.
I felt like after this point I came to a stand still with my mix. I was still trying to work out if this arrangement was working well or if I was just trying to be too ambitious with all the different elements. I kept listening back to my track and I knew I needed something but I couldn’t quite work out what it needed. After a few listens and plenty of breaks to get a fresh perspective, I realised I wanted to add some kind of simple drum rhythm throughout as the chorus felt quite detached from the verses. I loved the feel of the verses and they felt very ambient and electro-pop, whereas the chorus still felt very singer-songwriter piano and vocals track. I ended up adding a kick with a lot of bass and a simple snare hit with a brush sound rhythm. I also cut out the upright piano in the chorus’s as I felt the kind of playing of the chords did not match the track.
As soon as I did this, I felt it completely transform the whole track. It stopped feeling as though it was dragging and felt like it had actual movement. It also felt a lot more coherent on the whole.
One thing that took me a lot of hours to work on with this track, was the balance of all the different elements. As soon as I thought I had one thing just right, another thing would sound completely off. It took me a real while to work out how I wanted the vocals. I left them unedited until quite close to the end as I didn’t want to do something just for the sake of it, I wanted to compliment the track. I ended up doubling the vocal channel and dragging the second channel a very small amount ahead of the first which created a subtle delay. With the first vocal I then added some reverb to create a really echoey effect along with adjusting the EQ and compression. With the EQ on my main vocal I pulled down some of the mid frequencies as there was a small amount of distortion and almost too much ‘noise’ around the mids. I did the same with the second duplicated main vocal, however, rather than adding the same amount of reverb, I left this one quite dry so it could still punch through all the ambience of the track and the reverb of the other vocal.
This became a bit of an issue later down the line in regards to similarities between the vocals. Although the main vocals sounded nice I needed to put them both through an EQ and Compression bus in an Aux track so I could apply some of the same to both and add some cohesion for my vocals which would make them sit in the mix better and become a bit more distinguished from the rest of the track.
After this, I did a similar thing with all the sample vocals as these started to become quite garishly sporadic in terms of volume and where they sat with the main vocals. I sent them all through the same EQ and compression bus, pulled the threshold down slightly and emphasised some of the more prominent sounds with the EQ which completely transformed them. It was like they were all related now, rather than all being strangers from different parts of the world.
I found a lot for this track was just patience. Because there is so much going on and it’s an unusual combination of elements I didn’t want to rush anything or get frustrated with it. I got very frustrated with it, especially towards the end, however, I feel I took a lot of time over EQing each channel strip, as well as compressing parts I felt needed it and finely tuning a lot of the sounds myself such as the bells, the kick and the modulating synth.
I enjoyed mastering it as one can always tell such a difference between the before and after of mastering. I struggled to not get too frustrated at this point, mainly because I was exhausted and had put so much effort into it so far I didn’t want to destroy all the hard work I’d done.
At first I had applied too much compression in mastering and it was working too hard around the bass compression which meant I went back into my mix to have a look at some of the individual channels and their values. After another work around particularly the kick’s EQ and compression, I think the mastering worked better.
I used a high pass filter to cut out anything below 20hz and I also created some shelving in my EQ bringing up some of the higher frequencies and bass frequencies a bit more. I then applied some compression pulling the threshold down slightly and increasing the gain whilst adjusting the knee a bit more to create a softer compression. I used the limiter to create a ceiling of -1 dBFS which would cut out any sound reaching beyond that.
I made sure there was no clipping and none of the levels were above 0 before listening through once more and bouncing down my finished track.