Simon Power Writes:
Mixing is a dark art where traditional rules have been eroded by daring experiments that can catapult mixes into surprising new territory.
Sonic State takes a look at a few of the more extreme techniques that could add thrills, excitement and a few unexpected shocks to your next mix.
Side Chained Reverbs
Ducking or side chaining bass and kick is pretty much common practise nowadays adding suck and pump to your bottom end as it courses through a mix. But ducking your 'verbs offers a whole new way to approach the effects chain and it's place in the final mixdown.
For instance, say you have a belter of a vocal or synth line that you reckon would benefit from a huge reverb, but find that the reverb decay is using up way too much spectrum & muddying up everything in its path. Try adding a compressor after the reverb in the insert chain of the aux channel and then side chaining it to the original sound. The compressor will reduce the level of the reverb when the original signal is present. That way, your huge veil of 'verb will be swept aside in favour of the dominant vocal or synth whenever that signal becomes active.
Remember, the compressor is ducking the reverb, so the release setting is crucial in controlling its attack and shaping its sound. Playing around with threshold, attack and release on the compressor can lead to some pretty wild configurations.
This technique can be applied to bass and kick side chaining, too. Inserting a reverb before the compressor on a bass sound and suddenly it becomes a whole new beast. Mute the kick, so that the side chain is still active and then play around with different reverb settings until you find a suitably crazy reverb to enhance your bass.
Sure, everyone loves a nice clean vocal. Or do they? Listen to any number of chart hits or club anthems and it's clear that distortion plays a huge part in shaping the sound of contemporary vocal lines. More often than not they'll be over compressed, pitched, auto tuned and saturated to within an inch of their life. So what extreme measures are available to emulate these effects?
You could start by duplicating the lead vocal line a number of times at the mix stage, each time adding a clutch of effects to the new track. Saturation, harmonic distortion, autotune. Go crazy on each track dialling up a whole set of mad effects, different from the one before. When you've done this on a number of new tracks, kill the faders on all but the original and listen through to the solo'ed voice. As the song progresses, slowly introduce each of the multi tracks and take a listen to the effect that each one has on the overall performance. You can then decide how much or how little of the effect you want to introduce to your vocal performance. By the end of the listen through you may have a lead vocal that's a composite of up to five mono tracks, all at a variety of gains and all adding their own unique flavour to the overall sound of the voice.
Once you have a distinct sound for your vocalist you could bus it through something like Izotope's Nectar where a number of flashy presets could contort your new vocal sounds even further. Taking an average performance & distorting it way into the far reaches of outer space.
DJ Eric Cloutier plays with the System 700 + 808 combo
Live scoring of the famous surrealist film Un Chien Andalou