I made one of the worst mistakes I could when it comes to mixing the last few songs: I compensated my listening areas with EQ when listening to these mixes. What I failed to realize was that while they enhanced my tunes, they hid the real problems behind the colour. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice how bad the problem really was until I started turning it all off with all of the Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp tunes, because they were sounding great without it, both in my car (remember the ASL?) and on my iPod. Both of them were compensating the bass, but it was masking the really big problem of that I applied too much annoying mids and not adding enough bass on my own. The EQ’s did a great job of getting rid of the mids, while pumping up the bass. However, once I turned the EQ’s off, it popped out like a sore thumb and my tonality sounds no better than a lovesick Canada Goose!
So, I was faced with a choice: live with this monstrosity, or learn from it and just re-do the mixes. Hopefully, it was easy enough to tell that I couldn’t live with it. So, whenever I didn’t have to put together a slideshow for our weddings, I would re-train my ears to hear just how things sounded with the Jeremy Camp and Casting Crowns on my monitors. I wanted to analyze piece by piece just how my monitors were interacting with their songs. Once I felt confident that I was ready, I then pulled apart I Wanna Be… and discovered where I went wrong.
The source of half my problems with that song was with the bass guitar. I compromised on it in both the tone and the playing. It felt awful and I let it go. Well, not this time. Where I played it with my fingers before, I grabbed a pick and played it. I also spent a couple of hours just looking for the right sound that I could use. It had to be the right amp modelling and sound both heavy and even. After finding the tone, I managed to record the new bass part in one take. It sounded great all over and I was happy. Task one done.
Task two was to get it sitting in the mix a bit better, so I added some limiting to it and some tube excitation to the low end, thus adding some 2nd harmonics. It sat in there easily and doesn’t rattle the room. I compared this to my favourite Jeremy Camp tunes and they were right in there. I then brought up the kick drum and tightened it up again. Now it sounded like a a song. I then added a little trick I learned from Sound on Sound Magazine: I split the bass and added a noise gate on one of the channels which was fed by the kick drum. This made the bass pump on the verses. The song was right where I wanted it.
I then noticed that the guitars were way too muddy and scooped. I removed some of the low end mud and pumped up the mids and sent the guitars hard left and right and widened them in their respective zones. Now they sound much bigger as well as out of the way of the vocals. For the vocals, I am running them through a distressor emulation set to NUKE and 3rd order harmonics. As well, I changed the EQ emulation on it.
Now, it’s starting to really sound like the song I wanted. However, the true test will be when I can listen to it on my iPod as well as in my car. That’s when I will see if I have really learned from my mistakes!