Dancing Angels – From idea to finished mix!

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One of my latest mixes, which you may have heard by now, is “Danging Angels” from Project DIVIDE! It’s not been officially released yet on iTunes, but you can check it out on our youtube page here.

This one was fun as hell! I wrote the music on my iPhone using NanoStudio one day while waiting outside of a doctors office. Wrote lyrics a few months later, and then presented the tune to my Project Divide bandmate Josh Zeise. He and I went through the arrangement, added guitars, and together were able to turn the idea into a finished song!

The drums were written in NanoStudio, but the midi was imported into REAPER and exploded onto individual tracks for each note used. That way I could use the sample library of my choice in the way that I described in this recent video about using multi-channel audio on drums in REAPER.

The library I chose was the Room Sound Jay Maas Signature Series. These come “uncooked”, but they give you processing options right on the Kontakt GUI. Samples used were the “White Stain” 24” Kick, “Walnut Acrylic” Snare, Zildjian 14” K Hi Hats, and the Zildjian K 18” and 19” Dark Crashes. Add some console saturation from VCC, and a bit of drive from HeadCrusher, and some top down EQ on the drum bus, with some parallel compression on the drum bus, and the drums are done. It was one of the simplest drum mixes I’ve ever done, and yet it was one of the best sounding!

The bass was a Dean Edge bass, which isn’t the most prestigious model out there. But I love this bass for nasty grungy stuff with lots of clank and pick attack! I’ve been defaulting to EZMix2 for my bass amp sounds, because the sims in EXMix2 are phenomenal! The preset for the bass tone is the “Ambient Bass” amp setting with the delay and reverb all the way off. Some top down eq, some side chaining of the bass around the kick drum, and console saturation from VCC, and the bass was good to go!

The guitars were fun! This was the first mix I used the Scuffham Amps S-Gear on, and I don’t know that I’ll look elsewhere for guitar tones. The distorted tones came from the Jackal, which gave a big grungy tone that just fit perfectly for the track! Leading into the second verse, all guitars were filtered away as they decayed. That was done with a low pass filter that was automated to go lower and lower in frequency until the guitars were gone. There’s a clean guitar part in the middle interlude, and that’s just a pod 2.0 preset, but it fit quite well! From there, the lead guitar that sounds like a square wave synth was done by low pass filtering all of the highs off of the guitar DI, then feeding the guitar DI into a heavily distorted amp sim. This time it was the TSE X50, and I used the P&M Deluxe Tilt coupled with the guitars tone knob to roll everything off. To keep it sustaining, I fed the DI into the L1 Limiter before the amp sim and squashed it.

The synths were mostly created in NanoStudio on my iPhone, and printed into audio and imported into the session from there. There’s not a lot of processing on the synths, aside from some ambiance effect sends and some eq.

For vocals, I did some creative hard tuning in Melodyne. I wanted that fake processed sound. That was really driven home by the Lo-Fi control on JST’s Gain Reduction. I actually liked it so much that I printed it to tape and used the lo-fi vocal on the verses exclusively on a separate fader. But there was a problem. In the second verse, the vocal was getting lost when the music explodes back in halfway through. It needed to sit on top of the mix and float there, so I reached for HoRNeT’s Autogain Pro. It works like Vocal Rider, but it’s easier to set up and costs a lot less.

You’ll notice there’s barely any compression on this mix. I tend to use compression in parallel lately, and not directly on a track. I’ll use it on busses quite often, but unless it’s a vocal I usually don’t use it on an instrument. The exception is when I need to correct a problem. For typical tone shaping, I’ll usually reach for saturators or transient designers instead of compressors.

That said, Dancing Angels is one of the better mixes I’ve done so far. I’m quite proud of it, and can’t believe how simple it was to come together in production! Keep an eye out for this one hitting iTunes when Project DIVIDE are done with our EP in the near future!

[Editors Note: To Learn More About The Philosophy Behind Different Vocal Mix Decisions, Check Out “The Complete Guide to Mixing Vocals” By Matthew Weiss and The Pro Audio Files!]