Monday, January 23, 2017

The Mixdown: From Torture Comes Beauty

Turns out that mixing an album brings out one's latent OCD.

I've spent the last three weeks obsessing over the mixdown of a SINGLE SONG. I'm not getting enough sleep and my family thinks I've disappeared.

The results seem to be shaping up into something special. This song is the lead-off track on the album, and I want it to really shine. It's taking a lot of work, however. You haven't lived until you've spent hours playing the same ten bars of music over and over trying to get the instrument level right...

What started as a simple mixdown (is there such a thing?) turned into recording additional guitar, organ and bass parts on a song I originally wrote and recorded over three years ago, but which was frankly a little undercooked the way I left it back then.

The biggest dilemma has been getting the proper drum sounds. I write drum parts using an amazing app called Jamstix. Essentially, it writes the drum parts for you, based on your general instructions. It comes packaged with drums sounds that are usable for a big messy John Bonham sound, but not quite what I was looking for.

To get those sounds, I've plowed through all three of the major drum sample programs, Superior Drummer 2, Steven Slate Drums, and now BFD3, which turns out to be what I was looking for.

I have this constant battle to try and stay away from the big '80s drum sounds that I grew up with, but it's a losing battle this time around. This album has a persistent '70s vibe, but I'm sticking '80s drums on it. Hey, it's my album and I'll do what I want. I've gone with sounds in BFD3 that would make Phil Collins proud. It works with this lead-off track, but some of the other tracks will need more subtle drums.

I'll talk more about drums later. Let's just say that I'm undergoing a crash course in the proper use of EQ and compression in a mix. This is stuff I should have learned years ago, but was too lazy to do properly. I think the results are going to surprise people compared to my previous Council of One albums.

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