Mixing Clockwork Clown - A fHumbling Journey - Part 1 - "The Big Idea"
by, 04-03-2012 at 09:29 AM (7503 Views)
Here is the link to the mix I am discussing: cLockWork cLown - fHumble mIx
So... how to start... how to start...HOW TO START???
What do you do to start a mix? "That's easy", you say: "Just import the tracks into your DAW & pull up the (virtual) faders - start mixing - Duh!" Well, most who've done it know it's not that easy.
Ever heard anyone say "Get a clue!"? The fact is, unless you have a clue when you start a mix, the end result will sound like you need to get a clue.
When I start a mix I do a LOT of listening - I want to absorb everything I can about the musical, emotional & (yes, even) physical intent of the mix. I try to identify the things that are at the very core of the track. What are the strengths that I want to highlight? What are the weaknesses I want to downplay? What is it that is special & individual about this track?
You might have noticed, I have said absolutely nothing about the technical merits (or lack thereof) of the recorded tracks... Why? Well, for a start- most of the things I've mentioned so far can be gleaned simply from the artist's rough mix - True, sometimes you'll find hidden gems among the overdubs as you sift through the individual tracks in your DAW, but essentially, in "broad strokes" the rough mix should tell you all you need to know.
Getting down to specifics then: What did I conclude from listening to Iain's (LazyE's) guide mix?
This was an awesomely original, melodic & definitely left-of-centre pop song
The harmonic structure of the song was a little ambiguous, which gave it an air of mystery, discovery & inventiveness.
It had an unusual structure that created a quirky swathe of transitions through different emotional states.
The song had a defined dynamic contour that closely mirrored the emotional state of the song's protagonist... It started off intimate, moved though swinging dynamic contrasts that gradually increased with each new phase in harmonic complexity & (even) dissonance, then tapered off to an intimate, exhausted finale.
The vocalist's delivery seemed absolutely uncontrived, believable & real. There were no histrionics or vocal gymnastics to speak of - just raw emotion (& a little whiff of booze!)
The playing was very good - again seemingly off-the-cuff, somewhat improvised, exploratory, & in some ways, almost "stream-of-consciousness" stuff - in other words, never boring, never needlessly repetitive - I felt a real sense of musical adventure here...
The main thing that struck me as "difficult" was the rhythm of the track. The drums didn't seem to reflect the same sense of adventure as the other elements - they seemed quite static & repetitive, as if stitched together from a few repeating loops for each section... Upon examining the midi files, it seemed evident that this was the case (which is logical, because Iain has admitted this was essentially a quickly conceived demo.)
In an electronic production, repeating loops are par for the course, but here, in the midst of such a wild, organic beast of a song, the drums just didn't seem to groove or fit at all - They seemed to create a "plodding" mood that seemed (at least to me) to be the antithesis of the psychedelic pop'n'roll animal it could be.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned bum notes or flat singing. TBH, this stuff never worried me. Some people (perhaps rather unkindly) refer to some mixing experiences as "polishing turds". In fact, with a song like this one, I prefer to view it as "cutting a diamond" - Even the greatest diamonds ever found need to be cut "just right", so that their best facets are displayed, & their flaws cleverly hidden... so I felt confident that this would be the case with "Clockwork Clown"
I wanted to create a mix that really amplified the song's dynamics & adventurousness. I determined that the vocals needed to draw you in to the story... to wrap around you like a w@rm blanket, making the most of the timbre of Iain's voice. I decided to use effects fairly liberally, yet (hopefully) tastefully to intensify the contrast between the unreal, & the real states reflected in the song's lyrics.
I wanted the contrasts in the song not only to be expressed through extremes of frequency variation & timbre, but also the large variations in the width & the "depth" of the mix.
With all that buzzing around my head, I decided to attack my greatest concern first - How do I get the rhythm of this song to move & groove with the same intensity & inventiveness as the rest of the track?
That's what I'll discuss in Part 2... stay tuned!
...& here it is now: http://forum.recordingreview.com/blo...ng-groove.html