Today I’m going to explain how I mixed and mastered “Los Pollos Hermanos” by Heisenbergs Blue Lagoon.
I was surprised to say the least on how little I actually mixed this track. After getting the levels correct and to taste only minor adjustments to certain tracks were needed. These adjustments comprised of EQ, Compression and panning.
The whole kit comprises of nine tracks in total. Two kick tracks (in and out), Snare bottom and a snare I layered over the top. Rack tom, floor tom, ride, crash and room. Only two of these nine tracks have any plug-ins used on them, the rest were levelled to taste and did not require any treatment. The rack tom, floor tom, ride and crash have been panned their correct directions within the mix as if you were playing the kit. So for instance, you can see in the above picture that floor tom has been panned 50% right.
But what plug-ins did use and on what?
I was debating replacing the two kick tracks entirely but after a second listen and level adjustments the kick was not in need of replacing. The two kick tracks have been routed to a stereo aux that has been panned 50% left and right. As well as this the aux has the Pro Tools 7 band EQ within the inserts. The EQ has a +5dB low end shelf from 20Hz – 250Hz and a high end shelf of +4dB from 4K – 20K. This was necessary as beforehand the kick lacked the low end attack and thump of kick, as well as not being clear. So boosting the low and high end adding that “umph” of the kick as well as adding clarity.
I knew from the outset that replacing or layering the original snare with a sample was something I was definitely going to do, and to so say I am please with the outcome is an understatement. The snare sample I used was the one I recorded at the Lighthouse concert hall. The link to this post can be seen below.
Many drum replacement plug-ins are available to download and use within Pro Tools, however I did not use a plug to replace the snare. I done it manually, this was because of two things: 1. My Mac wont let me download Massey Drum Replacement Tool and 2. I am ridiculously OCD and knew the only way to get it to spot was to do it myself. Ideally I could have used strip silence or beat detective within Pro Tools to spot where each snare beat was. This may have been a time saver, but at the end the results would’ve been the same.
The layering process, started with hearing whether the sample of my choice complimented the song and the original recorded snare. In this case It did. Layering is the norm within mixing to achieve the perfect percussion sound. Layering up two or more samples allows you to have the best characteristics of each sample your using and this instance the original snare was very in the low end and did not have that sudden attack of a snare, whereas the sample I layered on top did. Creating a very complimentary snare sound to go in the mix.
After layering the sample on top of the original snare, I got the levels correct within the mix and found that no treatment was needed. Getting levels right within the mix was all it needed.
I used the BF-76 compressor on the room mic. The BF-76 within Pro Tools is a software replica of the 11-76 hardware compressor by Universal Audio. Renowned for it’s fast attack and release, as well as famously being used on room mics. The 11-76 is also famous for it’s “Brit Mode”. This infamous technique was discovered by a group of British engineers by pushing all ratio buttons in and the result being very heavy compression. Highly used in the late 60’s, an example of this is “Taxman” by The Beatles. A link to “Taxman” by The Beatles can be seen below:
I used this compressor on the room mic to add a bit of crunch to the track. Compressors have their own tone, and I used the BF-76’s to my advantage. Having the room mic sit behind the main drums in the mix adding a harsh contrasting layer compared to the smooth tone of the guitars. This works very well within the mix especially at the big dynamic build at the end of the song. The room mic being compressed throughout the whole song acts as a snippet of where the song is leading, to a big emotive ending.
The bass tone was clean and could very easily be manipulated. Blue Lagoon made is very clear that a heavy sub driven bass was what they wanted. I went through the process of boosting the low end using Pro Tools 7 band EQ. How ever too much of this meant the kick became lost within the mix. Unfortunately as I have said before the kick does get lost within the mix in the last section of the song.
I did boost the low end of the bass but not to an over dramatic extent. As you can see above I used a low end shelf +3dB between 20K – 250K. As well as using the 7 band EQ, I also compressed the bass using Pro Tools D3 Comp/Limiter. The bass was not clipping but was very inconsistent dynamically, dropping into the background then becoming prominent and masking the kick. So compressing the bass gave me the opportunity to get the levels correct without having to change them when the bass becomes more prominent. Alternatively this could be done using automation.
The compression I used was at a 1:7:1 compression ratio with an average gain reduction of -6dB. This is only a small amount of compression as he bass did not need heavy compressing. I used a soft knee as with a harsh knee the bass distorted and this was not wanted. Getting the level of the bass within the mix was a tough one, I was considering as well as compression automation but I managed to get the bass to an adequate level.
I did not mix the guitar in any way, I simple got the levels correct, duplicated each track and panned accordingly, 50% left and right. This was to create a wider stereo image of the guitars whilst still being heard in mono. I also brought up the guitar solo in the mix using automation. Pictures can be seen above.
Organ, Piano and Synth:
The organ, piano and the synth have not had any corrective treatments applied to them within the mixing process. The only adjustments made were the fader levels, panning and automation.
The automation I used was on the synth strings; I panned the left synth track from right to left in time with the track. Whilst the left track is playing the right strings track has been automated so that it fades in once the last section crescendos into the end. This technique is very effective, yet unfortunately it is not audible in mono but the strings are still present when the panning goes to the left and the last section starts. Pictures of this can be seen above.
All in all I feel this is a very successful mix.
I mastered “Los Pollos Hermanos” using Pro Tools built in mastering limiter Maxim. The threshold was set as -0.1dB and the track was set specifically in 16 bit 41.1kHz to meet the red book CD regulations. All four mixed tracks were imported into a new Pro Tools session to get the the volume level equal. Each track had to flow between one another on playback. Mastering the four tracks as a whole was a little bit tricky, due to the versatility of all four tracks and how different they are. However I feel I managed to get a comfortable and balanced Mastered CD.