As part of our class at SAE, we have to complete three musical mixes. While others in my class have been producing music all trimester, I have been involved in post-production for all of my projects. As such, I decided to complete this task by means of 1hr challenges. The purpose of these challenges is to see how good you can make a mix within 1hr, as this is often how long you have to mix a song after recording a band live at a radio station before it is broadcast.
The first exercise I did in class, and didn’t screen-record my mixing session and I’ve lost my screenshots of my mixing session, so unfortunately there isn’t any visual material to back that mix up, however here is the bounce I had at the end of it. The song is called Wild As You Are by Lea Thomas and the stems can be downloaded from Weathervane Music
I’m unsure of what genre to call this, possibly just soft rock, although the labelling of a genre is not particularly relevant as we were given a reference track to mix to anyway, as you can hear in my mixing video in the following exercise. The reference song is Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie. To mix to the musical style of the song, I aimed to make the vocal the main element in the mix, with a warm feeling added through the subtle stereo imaging of the backing vocals, as well as making the acoustic guitars the main instrumental focus of the mix.
There were several points of failure to this mix, the main one being that I wasn’t used to my headphones’ frequency response and thus the mix is very bass-heavy. This could have been avoided by using a comparator (as is explained in my Royal Artillery mix tips blog). Another area of weakness was that I didn’t limit the song, so it is rather quiet and certainly not to industry standard. I also didn’t edit out a cough in one of the backing vocal tracks. I rectified both of these issues in my second mix attempt.
For my second exercise, I redid my 1hr challenge from class, though I had a little bit more preparation beforehand (assigned tracks to groups and topped and tailed the song). You can see my mixing process below.
Overall, it is definitely a stronger mix, although I’m a little uncomfortable with how the main acoustic guitar got brought up in the mix by the limiter at the end of the mixing process. Compression and limiting is by far one of my weaknesses and I need to do a little more practice to get some good results from it. I’m also a little uncomfortable with the level of the lead vocal, as I feel it requires volume automation, which I did not prioritise. It feels good for a lot of the song, but it peaks a little too high when she goes for the high notes.
I am definitely a lot happier with the un-limited version of this mix. The levels were balanced a lot better than my first mix, particularly the keys section and the drums. I used the Kick Out track of the stems as my reverb track as it didn’t add a lot to the kick sound by itself, but provided a great bed to thicken it up with some reverb on it, as long as it was used subtly. This gave the song a warmer, heavier feel in general without making it uptight and intense. You can listen to my second mix below.
These mixing exercises are great in pointing out weaknesses in your mixing skills and I aim to improve my mixing skills yet again with my final mix excercise, the long-awaited mix of the class recording of Royal Artillery, which will be released soon. Keep your eyes (and ears) peeled!