Red Cat Recording Co.

"Others do it, but no one does it like us!"

Full Service Recording and Production Facility

Mixing is way more art and soul than science.
— Eddie Kramer
You’ll know it when it’s right. You’ll really know it when it’s wrong. You do it right, the band won’t even really want very many changes, just because you knocked it out the first time. Really, I sit at the console as a fan first, and an engineer second.
— Luke Wallace

 There's sometimes some misconception about what mixing is. Mixing is the process that happens once all the instruments are recorded and edited as individual parts, and assembled into one whole piece of music. The way a song is mixed has as much, if not more, impact on the way it sounds as the tracking and editing of the instruments themselves. This is not an easy, or quick task. We're not making a pizza here, we're making a record. We use a fair amount of technique that help make the recorded music more unreal, bigger than life, tall, wide, etc...Its funny, that we try to make the music seem "natural". Thats a misnomer for sure. We go through a lot of "un-natural" processes that eventually end up sounding "natural". There's a lot of time, effort, finesse and critiquing that happens. Not to mention labor. Get ready, this next part is somewhat lengthy. But, we want you to know what you are hiring us for. Here's a quick rundown of our mixing process.

 

1. Evaluate potential problems with the recording itself. This may be a dull sounding kick drum or tom. Maybe something's out of tune, or out of time.

2. Fix those problems. We are living in an incredible time of artistry and technology. These two facets come together and give us the tools to fix just about anything. Not that we want to make everything perfect to the point that it's robotic, but there's a line. We want it right, not perfect.

 Cubase screen shot

Cubase screen shot

3. Now we begin the actual mix process. We like to start with the kick drum, after all, the kick is the foundation of the song. We may enhance the kick drum with sampled kicks, not to replace, but to favor the original sound. We want a Kick drum that sounds like, well, a kick drum. Not just a kick drum. A killer kick drum.  Sometimes that takes some work to achieve. Lots of EQ (equalization) here. 

4. Layer the snare tracks. We will create a big snare, and depending on the music genre, we may layer multiple snare sounds to get that incredible sounding snare, especially in rock music. 

5. Toms. Again, we'll look hard at the toms and decide if enhancement is necessary. If it is, we'll do it. Lots of EQ here as well. 

6. We will look at the overhead microphones. We'll decide if the cymbals should be out front of the kit, or behind. Well also scoop a lot of the low end frequencies out of these tracks. There's not a lot of low end coming out of your cymbals. 

7. Align the drums into near perfect time, if played to a click tempo track. This is a big advantage when competing on the open music market. We want the tempo of the song to be in time. We, as humans, can tell when the tempo of a song fluctuates. It makes for a sub par product. To get a truly pro sound, we have to record to a tempo click track, or metronome. Drummers, get good at playing to a metronome, and know the Beats Per Minute (BPM) of your songs. You will reap the benefits in the studio, guaranteed. We know you're a great drummer, but we also know you're no atomic clock. 

8. Now we'll start looking at guitars. If we tracked two guitar tracks, we will pan one hard to the left channel and one hard right to the right channel. This creates a wide stereo image, and creates the illusion of space. Same goes if we tracked four tracks, two to the left, and two to the right. We might add some compression if needed, and add some reverb to make it natural sounding. Now if there is more that one guitar in the band, we will have to approach that a little differently, but the ideas are the same. 

9. Bass guitar. Now we're having fun. Now well get down to the meat, the beef, the body of the song. Oddly enough, first thing we'll do is remove a lot of the flabby low end frequencies. Anything below 40Hz will probably be cut out. Below that frequency, its just mud. Once we cut that out, all of a sudden the bass becomes punchy, while maintaining its fullness. Also, we might add a tiny bit of distortion, not like guitar effect pedal distortion (unless that's what we want) but harmonic distortion. Its a favorable distortion, often made by the way sound signal flows through hardware. This gives the bass some grit, to really dig in and cut through. We may also do this to hi hats, cymbals, shakers and tambourines, to make those cut through and sizzle.

 Cubase's Vari Audio Vocal editing

Cubase's Vari Audio Vocal editing

10. Vocals. This is a category all its own. We have all these vocal tracks we recorded, and now its time to put them all together. We take the best performed phrases, even the best syllables, and put them all together into a cohesive phrase, or part. We have really incredible tools nowadays for the processing of vocal tracks. And yes, we have Autotune. But we prefer a function in Cubase called Vari-Audio. We can go into a part, even just a word, or phrase, even a fragment and manipulate the pitch of said word or phrase. And it sounds natural. Now, we'll use Autotune if you want, or if the genre or song calls for it. But of course, it's best if the singer is perfect, but let's face it, we're only human.  That's probably just not going to happen. Even a near perfect vocal take needs some massaging to get it up to standards. We're in a competitive business. Your music is competing with every other song out there. And your vocals are the knife edge of the song. They have to be good. That's why it's critical for your vocal tracks to be stellar. The song will fail with a sub-par vocal track. This is why we will spend a lot of time on processing vocals. Really, it is not unheard of to spend nearly 8 hours just on vocal pitch correction, even on a very good singer. 

I try to make every member of the band feel like they’re the loudest.
— Eric Serafin

11. Mix down. Now that we are happy with the individual sounds, we'll make a balanced song. We'll get the levels of all the individual instruments set the way we want. A huge part of the mixdown process is to carve the EQ frequencies out of the instruments so that they all fit together. We want to hear every part, every nuance, every detail. We don't want the lead guitar too quiet, to where you can hardly hear it. I mean, what's the point of the solo in the first place? But we don't want to cover up the rhythm guitar, or the lead vocals for that matter. It's all matter of finesse. The only way to get a polished sounding song is to, well, polish it. That involves getting everything right as you go along. There's no magic sauce, no tricks, no technology, can do this. It takes years of study and practice. We'll never know it all, and that's the beauty of it. We learn something new every project. 

12. We submit the tracks to you for your approval. Let us know of changes and we will accommodate. 

 

13. Let the world hear your music. Enjoy!