Mixing advice

More intimate sound…

Hey guys, hopefully you can help me out with some advice about mixing.
I have a song that I want to give a more intimate feeling to, think about a semi-ballad, semi-uptempo song, performed in a dive bar, or jazz bar, etc. The closest i can think of is Nick Cave’s “Boatman’s Call” album or Portishead maybe.
The song has drums, piano, acc. bass, strings and some dist.guitar, along with vocals of course. I just want to achieve a very intimate war feeling to it.

Lots of ideas pop into my mind…

Try imagining how the musicians are placed on the stage, and how loud each one of them would sound to the average listener in the bar. Pan and mix accordingly.

Try adding a short reverb to all the tracks (use the Aux channel). I suggest the KjaerhusAudio Classic series Reverb, with the setting “Small Club” - just to have a place to start.

Try adding a short delay to another Aux channel to create the illusion of the opposite wall in the bar. (You could go the elaborate way of calculating the time the sound would take to travel back and forth, and adjust the delay accordingly, but I suggest you just start playing with the knobs until you find a setting that sounds a bit convincing).

Try adding a track of restaurant or bar noise, people chatting, laughing, glasses clinking, etc. to the song, mixed way, way down, i.e. turn it up until you clearly notice it, then 2-3 dB’s down again.

Try using some form of compression on the vocal, and a limiter on the bass and the guitar.

Try soloing the guitar and the bass, and get their mutual balance right, then solo the bass and the drums, and get their mutual balance right. Finally solo the vocal and the piano, and get their mutual balance right. Un-solo everything, and make whatever adjustments you need.

By now, you should be very, very familiar with the sound of each instrument, and the band playing together. Now you just add your own imagination…

regards, Nils

Been to a small, sleazy bar lately? Go to one, and listen. Sit and have a beer or two (don’t get drunk!)… take a sound back home with you and look to reproduce it in your mix. Maybe something will be realized in the process.

And Nils has some real good advice there about your sound-field.

Those are all great suggestions. But, when I think of a ‘more intimate’ sound, I don’t think of room reverbs and crowd noises. To me, ‘more intimate’ is close, in my living room, light amplification, warm, soft sounds.

Listen to an old James Taylor acoustic song in headphones. There is nothing between the music and your ears. Thats what I think of as ‘intimate’.

Allright- good mics… that would be #1. Not to say what a good mic is, but you would want a good representation of what you might call Reality brought into the track. The room will matter.

By the same token, a singer with good microphone technique: Doesn’t move around the mic, just keeps his/her ‘signal’ going in nice and consistent. And a soulful performance. This is big- heart is almost everything.

A good sounding bass. Beautiful line, by a player who knows his axe- where to play what note, when, on his instrument. Judicious, tasteful players with ears for the song, and where it’s going.

Get good at using your compressor- you can get a bit ‘in your face’ without being loud. It gets your levels even, and bring things forward.

There’s more here than I can authoritavely talk about. But keep your eye on the idea, and it’ll happen. I didn’t mean to ‘give you a lesson’ on the basics of recording a song!

Thanks guys. You have been really helpful.
I’d love to expriment with micking techniues for instruments, but since i have a keyboard workstation i just plug it into the soundcard. Unforunatelly I don’t have a keyboard amp and my apt is noisy, so if i mike every instrument it will bring the noise levels up a lot.
I’m trying to mix a song with minimal instrumentation, but still give it a feelng that it fills up the sonic space.
Anyway i’ve tried some of the suggestions and when i get of my ass to actually post the song online, you can give it a listen, if you have nothing better to do with you time. lol.
Again, thanks.

Just a fun anecdote: A friend of mine was using my basement to do an album for a friend of his, and there was ambient noise in the house- my kids (2 and 5 at the time), me stomping in from work at the end of the day, and other “family home” sounds. He decided he liked the ambience; he said it added a lively element to the mix.

This might not be true all the time, but you might consider a little ‘stream of external life’ running through your track the way a chef considers pepper in his chowder. You wanted ‘intimacy’, it might end up there in the vibe of room sounds created by outside influences.

And maybe not. :)

To me, ‘intimate’ means ‘close’. ‘Close’ means less reverb…in fact, as dry as possible. Also, when tracking vox, keep the mic as close as possible (use a pop filter).