State of the Mix 2013: Reruns

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I guess I’ve got a couple of new things I’ve been playing with lately that aren’t really new at all. If you’ve read the blog for a while, you’ve probably already figured out that I tend to cycle through different phases and then back around. It helps keep some things fresh for me.

  • Drum Shield

    Our drum shield is back up. I have mixed feelings about drum shields. I love the way the drums sound with the shield off, but I love the way the vocals sound with the shield up. We put it back up at the end of December as we approached the musical number for Christmas, and I decided to leave it up. Lately we’ve been using some great singers who just don’t have as much power as I’d like so it can be a constant fight to get enough vocal over the crash-ride cymbal fad I wish would die already. With the shield up I find I simply have cleaner vocals and more control over cymbals in the house. I’m sure I’ll pull the shield off again at some point, but for the near future I think it’s going to stay up.

  • Compressing First

    This might legitimately be somewhat new for me…well, at least me doing it deliberately is probably new. Lately I’ve been compressing my vocals before I EQ them.

    I’ve been using Waves Ren. Channel essentially as my primary channelstrip for vocals for a while now. My approach with compression is typically to EQ first so that I have my source cleaned up before I compress. What I was finding lately is after EQ’ing and then compressing I would invariably find myself going back to the EQ to fix/tweak something. In those cases I would do some whacky things to the signal when I started sweeping through the EQ because the additional boost on the EQ would drive harder into the compressor.

    The Ren. Vox compressor setting I use is pretty transparent, but like any compressor it still affects the sound and tone of a signal when used. I guess I felt like I was chasing my tail sometimes going back and forth between the EQ and compressor settings so one day I flipped the signal path in the plugin to compress first, and I just got happier with the result faster. It doesn’t work for everyone, though, but it’s pretty nice to be able to just flip between the two right in the plugin. The bottom-line is my starting point these days is to compress the vocal first.

    Most other instruments are still EQ first and then compression, though. Part of this might be because I try not to use much compression on the instruments. On the other hand, I can’t remember the last time I mixed a vocal without compressing it.

    One thing I should note, though, is I still use a hi-pass filter ahead of all of this so that I can filter out any garbage first.